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St. John's holds off DePaul

The SportsXchange

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Even with a 17-point second half lead, St. John's coach Steve Lavin knew it wasn't safe in Saturday's Big East clash with DePaul.

The host Blue Demons proved Lavin correct as they rallied to within three points late in the game before falling 71-62 at Allstate Arena.

"I knew they were going to make a run at us," Lavin said. "The game was somewhat emblematic of our season -- we played really well in stretches and fell apart and played poorly in others. (But) as a coach you're pleased when your team finds a way to close out a victory."

St. John's guard Jamal Branch scored a career-high 18 points and fellow guard D'Angelo Harrison added 15 as the Red Storm (11-7, 3-3 Big East) won their second straight.

The Blue Demons used a barrage of 3-pointers to climb back into contention as Jamee Crockett had back-to-back distance shots and Moses Morgan hit another with 2:24 left in regulation as DePaul cut the deficit to 65-62.

But the Blue Demons never got closer as the Red Storm hit six of nine free throws in the final 2:04 to preserve the lead.

Sir'Dominic Pointer had 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds while JaKarr Sampson added 10 points for the Red Storm.

Crockett had a game-high 19 points, Cleveland Melvin added 16 and Brandon Young had a career-best 10 rebounds for the Blue Demons (10-8, 1-4) who have dropped three straight and five of their last six.

St. John's broke away from a 39-39 second-half tie, utilizing an 11-3 surge to take command with a 50-42 lead with 13:33 left in regulation.

"Right there was the key to the game," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. "That stretch early to midway in the second half when we gave up a number of rebounds and turned the ball over at the top led to easy baskets for St. John's."

The Red Storm tried to put the game out of reach with an 11-0 run over a nearly four minute span for a game-high 17-point lead at 63-46 lead with 7:35 to play.

But DePaul replied with a 16-2 run that cut the deficit to just three points.

"We were being aggressive and going back to what we do," Crockett said. "(We were) attacking the rim, getting good shots and knocking down our free throws."

St. John's improved to 16-14 in the all-time series and has seven straight wins over DePaul. The Blue Demons last beat the Red Storm on Jan. 12, 2008.

The visitors opened a 10-4 lead in the game's first 4:38 while DePaul hit just 2 of 9 shots -- both by Donnavan Kirk.

But Young broke a nearly 4-minute drought with two free throws and a bank shot as DePaul cut the deficit to 12-8 and stayed close the rest of the way.

Crockett took over late in the half with 10 consecutive points, including a dunk with 2:04 left in the half for DePaul's first lead at 33-31. But the Red Storm's Sampson and Harrison hit back-to-back jumpers for a 35-33 lead by halftime.

Purnell said turnovers and poor 3-point shooting (5 of 25) contributed to DePaul's woes.

"Our turnovers (18) really hurt us through the game," he said. "I think 34 percent of their scores came from our turnovers. And the other glaring thing was our 3-point shooting. We took way too many of them and obviously didn't hit enough."

Notes: With his 16 points, Melvin passed ex-DePaul player and coach Joey Meyer for 24th on the school's all-time scoring list. Melvin hit the milestone with a jumper at the 12:30 mark of the first half and has 1,244 career points. ... Last Tuesday's victory over No. 20 Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden was St. John's first over a top 25 team this season. Chicago native Phil Green IV scored 13 points against the Irish. ... The win snapped the Red Storm's two-game losing streak. ... Two of 1980s-era DePaul standouts, Stanley Brundy and Terence Greene, were inducted into the school's Hall of Fame on Saturday. They played from 1985-89 and helped the Blue Demons to two NCAA Sweet 16 appearances. ... St. John's freshman center Chris Obekpa was named Big East rookie of the week after averaging 10.5 rebounds and 5.5 blocks in two recent games. He leads the nation with an average of 5.1 blocks per game. ... DePaul hits the road for Big East games next Saturday at Pitt and on Jan. 30 at St. John's. The Red Storm closes a two-game road swing Wednesday at Rutgers.
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