Big East DePaul St. John's Basketball
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The St. John’s Red Storm began their Big East Tournament with an 82-74 win over DePaul as their NCAA Tournament hopes remain alive.

Ricky Keeler

  • St. John’s Red Storm 82 (21-11)
  • DePaul Blue Demons 74 (15-15)
  • Big East Tournament, Round 1, Final, Box Score
  • Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

For the St. John’s Red Storm, their third matchup of the season with the DePaul Blue Demons ended up being the charm. The Red Storm began their 2019 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden with an 82-74 win and snapped their three-game losing streak. They will advance to play Marquette Thursday night in the Big East quarterfinals (7 p.m. ET, FS1).

When you look at the Red Storm on Wednesday, balance on offense was a major key to the victory. All five starters ended up scoring in double figures as different players played a major role at different points in the game.

In fact, it was a three-way tie for the leading scorer on the team as Shamorie Ponds, Justin Simon, and Mustapha Heron all had 18 points and combined to make 21 of their 37 shots from the floor.

On the offensive side, St. John’s was able to keep their rhythm throughout the game and they did not force up many bad shots from the perimeter. They shot 46.3 percent from the floor as a team and they drove the ball to the basket more. This led to them earning trips to the foul line where they went 13-for-15.

While St. John’s had a ten point lead in the first half, DePaul was able to hang in there and the Red Storm’s lead at the half was four (39-35). In the first six minutes of the second half, Chris Mullin‘s team went on a 14-7 run to extend the lead to 11 thanks to three-pointers from Ponds and LJ Figueroa (14 points).


Before the game, Heron was mentioned as a possible X-factor and he had one of his better games in a Red Storm uniform. He attacked the basket and was efficient from the floor (6-for-11 shooting). Plus, he finished with a team-high seven rebounds. The 18 points were the most Heron has scored in a game since February 17 against Villanova (19).

As for Ponds, he did hit some clutch shots from beyond the arc in the second half. However, his best contribution in this game was as the main distributor of the ball. The junior guard ended up with seven of the team’s 12 assists to go with the aforementioned 18 points (7-for-11 from the floor).

Simon has to be considered the MVP for this game. When Simon was not making circus shots on offense as part of eight straight points to end the first half, he was shutting down Max Strus and showing why he was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

After Strus had 43 points against the Red Storm on March 3, the DePaul forward was held to 13 points on 4-for-12 shooting and 2-for-7 from downtown. While Eli Cain tried to keep the Blue Demons in it with his 23 points, St. John’s’ defense was too much as they forced 14 turnovers and it allowed them to play their transition game perfectly.

On the defensive end, St. John’s was finding a way to get to the loose balls and they made the hustle plays that are needed to win this time of the year in college basketball. True, they lost the rebounding battle 42-32, but they found a way to limit DePaul’s paint touches as they held Femi Olujobi to just six points. He had 50 combined points in the first two matchups against the Red Storm.

With this win, St. John’s helped to improve their NCAA Tournament chances as they will now get another shot at a quality win Thursday night. They have already defeated Marquette twice this year and the Golden Eagles come into this game on a four-game losing streak.

For one night, the Red Storm were able to quiet the bubble talk as they put together a consistent 40 minutes of basketball. If they aren’t a lock already for the big dance, one more win should get them there. The matchup between Simon and Big East Player of the Year Markus Howard alone will be must-see TV at MSG.

I graduated from St. John's University with a degree in sports management. I previously wrote about the Johnnies at Rumble In the Garden.