Red Storm prevails in overtime over struggling Blue Demons

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- DePaul coach Oliver Purnell can be thankful January is in the rear-view mirror for his Blue Demons.
Purnell's team finished the month 1-6 after dropping a spirited 79-74 overtime decision to St. John's on Wednesday night at Carnesecca Arena. The loss moved DePaul to 10-10, 1-6 in the Big East Conference.
The Blue Demons gave their best effort during the losing streak, especially coming off a 38-point loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday. But it wasn't enough to overcome their second loss to St. John's in 11 days. The Red Storm knocked off the Blue Demons 71-62 on Jan. 19 at Allstate Arena.
St. John's (14-7, 6-3), the hottest team in the Big East with five straight wins, was paced by D'Angelo Harrison's 17 points.
Brandon Young led DePaul with 21 points, Jamee Crockett scored 14 and Moses Morgan added 13 off the bench.
Sir'Dominic Pointer dominated the overtime for St. John's. His follow-up dunk tied the game at 73-73 with 2:15 to play, and his two free throws after an intentional foul by Young gave the Red Storm a 77-74 cushion with 1:04 to go.
Young's potential tying 3-pointer from the left corner was turned away by Chris Obekpa, the Big East's leading shot blocker, with 15.8 seconds left.
"I thought Jamee (Crockett) had a good look in the corner when we were down three points, but it just didn't go down for us," Purnell said. "Obviously, you'd like to see us get a win. But Obekpa is such a good shot blocker. When he was in the game, he really changed some things."
The 6-foot-9 Obekpa finished with five blocks.
"We've won a lot of games in the last six minutes," said Purnell, "and we lost this one in the last six minutes.
"Clearly, we did one of the three things we needed to do to win a six-minute game very well and that was shoot free throws. We didn't take care of the ball a couple times and we didn't rebound defensively a couple times when we really needed to."
DePaul was 18 of 20 from the line.
It looked like the Blue Demons were in good shape to finish the month on a positive note when Young buried a 3-pointer to tie it at 65-65 with 4:15 left in regulation. Then, 30 seconds later, they caught a break when Harrison fouled out.
But DePaul couldn't capitalize.
Cleveland Melvin's basket provided DePaul with a 67-65 lead with 3:45 to play, but a dunk by Pointer drew St. John's even at 67-67 at the 1:59 mark.
Crockett's follow allowed DePaul to regain the lead at 69-67 with 1:25 to go, but the pesky Red Storm tied it again at 69-69 on two free throws from Jamal Branch with 1:18 remaining.
DePaul had a chance to retake the lead, but Young's long 3-pointer fell off the back iron with 12 seconds left.
Although DePaul is at the bottom of the conference standings, St. John's coach Steve Lavin calculated correctly that the Blue Demons would be a handful. After DePaul grabbed four straight offensive rebounds in one sequence early in the game, Lavin called a timeout.
"To this point in the season, DePaul and Georgetown played us the hardest, just in terms of sheer effort," Lavin said. "To do that coming off a 38-point loss is impressive. It would be easy to catch a team flat.
"But they were razor sharp. They had a hard edge. To me the real story tonight was the way they (DePaul) played."
With Harrison fouling out, freshman JaKarr Sampson stepped up in the overtime, scoring six points and playing solid defense.
"I'm proud of our kids to find a way to win on a night where we couldn't find our rhythm offensively," Lavin said. "D'Angelo Harrison fouls out and we trailed late in the game. It says a lot about our team's growth and maturity.
"We're still a major work in progress, but I'm pleased with the overall direction of the program and the team. Tonight I'm pleased with the victory, but we know we still have our hands full in the conference."
Despite suffering through another poor shooting half, DePaul trailed by just seven (38-31) at halftime, thanks largely to some aggressive play on the offensive boards.
The Blue Demons enjoyed a 12-4 advantage on the offensive glass, scoring eight points off of those chances. They held a 28-15 overall cushion on the boards, but made just 12 of 35 shots from the field (34.3 percent).
Melvin, DePaul's leading scorer, struggled in the half-court, but Morgan provided a spark off the bench.
Morgan contributed 11 points in 13 minutes. Young chipped in with eight and Crockett added seven for DePaul.
NOTES: Melvin is the Big East Conference's only player ranked among the Top 10 in scoring and rebounding. He's fifth in both categories in the league. ... The Blue Demons are last in the conference in scoring defense (80.7), scoring margin (minus 10.7), field-goal percentage (.481) and 3-point field goal percentage (.253). ... Worrel Clahar's first-half 3-pointer represented the 599th straight game the Blue Demons have knocked down at least one 3-point shot. Their last game without one came against UAB on Feb. 16, 1993. ... Although he's a spot starter, Obekpa leads the nation with 91 blocked shots.

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