DePaul Blue Demons vs. St. John’s Red Storm – Thursday, February 25th, 8 p.m. Central – Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois
Television – FOX Sports 1
Radio – WIND AM 560
For DePaul to have a chance to hold off St. John’s on Thursday night they are going to need to be at full strength. The Blue Demons had two starters pick up injuries and were limited in the first meeting with St. John’s on the 17th. Billy Garrett, Jr. picked up a strained right calf in that game while big man Peter Ryckbosch injured his knee. Both players were sidelined in Saturday’s loss to Marquette. Garrett and Ryckbosch have had over a week to recuperate and are both considered day-to-day going into Thursday night’s game.
St. John’s is coming off a heartbreaking 62-61 loss at home to the Seton Hall Pirates where they led by three points with less than a minute to go. It’s a game that the Johnnies could have won but they missed 14 free throws and turned the ball over 21 times.
Tempers were running hot in that loss for the Red Storm. After the game a fight broke out between the two teams in the handshake line.
One bright spot for the Red Storm has been the play of freshman Kassoum Yakwe. Yakwe was named to this week’s Big East Honor Roll after averaging 13.5 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks in games last week.
It isn’t just freshmen that have helped St. John’s out this season. Red Storm coach Chris Mullin bolstered his with the addition of two fifth-year transfers. Durand Johnson, the cousin of former Blue Demon Cleveland Melvin, transferred in from Pittsburgh. Ron Mvouika joined the team as a transfer from Missouri State. The two transfers are among the top three scorers for SJU. Johnson leads the team with 11.9 points per game, while Mvouika adds 8.3 ppg.
If you’re a DePaul fan and looking for a reason to be hopeful, well St. John’s is winless in road games this season.
The Last Time
On February 17, 2016 at Carnesecca Arena in Queens, New York, in what was mostly a sloppy affair between two teams at the bottom of the Big East in DePaul and St. John's, it was the Red Storm who pulled away in the second half to garner their first Big East win of the season, as they defeated the Blue Demons 80-65.
After an ugly first half in which neither team showed much of an offensive rhythm, St. John's went into the break with a 31-24 lead. The Johnnies built their lead mostly by getting hot from deep early and hitting four three pointers. Meanwhile, DePaul came up empty behind the arc (0-6 from three-point range) in the first half.
Once the second half started, though, it initially appeared DePaul was determined to make up for a bad first half. The Blue Demons would open up the second stanza by scoring the first eight points, and regaining the lead 32-31. In that time the Demons would attack the basket and feed off fast break chances.
However, Chris Mullin and his Red Storm would not be denied on this night; not on their home court. Mullin would make some key substitutions and once he did that, it was all downhill for the Demons.
St. John's would respond with a 15-3 run to get all the breathing room it needed to seize control of the game. DePaul would attempt a late rally and cut a one-time 20-point lead down to 8 when Billy Garrett Jr., who strained his right calf just before halftime, hit a three-pointer with 1:34 to go in the game.
A technical foul on the next play by Darrick Wood, who argued with the officials, halted the momentum the Demons were enjoying at the moment. St. John's freshman guard Federico Mussini would hit both technical free throws and from there, it became a free-throw contest and the Red Storm made enough to win going away.
DePaul shot just 36.1 percent from the field for the game, and a woeful 21.1 percent from three-point range. Conversely, St. John's did not shoot that much better, connecting on 44.1 percent of its shots.
However, the Red Storm got the baskets when they needed them, especially in the second half. The Red Storm shot a blistering 56.5 percent in the second half. With each shot the Johnnies made in the second half, they got a little bit more confident and that confidence ultimately carried them past the finish line.
On the bright side for the Blue Demons, DePaul freshman Eli Cain had a career night. He scored a game and career-high 25 points on 9-16 shooting from the field.
Garrett was second on the team in scoring with 14 points, as he was the only other Blue Demon in double figures. After the game Garret said he played through the leg pain and that it limited his mobility.
It was also a bad night for the Demons' leading scorer and rebounder Myke Henry, as he scored just five points on 2-8 shooting, while only grabbing four rebounds.
For the Red Storm, they had four players score in double figures with Durand Johnson's 18 points leading the way. Federico Mussini had 17 points off the bench, while Kassoum Yakwe and Malik Ellison each chipped in with 11 points.
St. John’s Roster
No. Name Yr. Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown/High School/Previous School
0 Malik Ellison FR Guard 6-6 205 Voorhees, N.J./Life Center Academy (N.J.)
1 Amar Alibegovic SO Forward 6-9 235 Rome, Italy/Istituto Tecnico Minerva
2 Christian Jones RS JR Forward 6-7 230 Arlington, Texas/IMG Academy (Fla.)
3 Marcus LoVett FR Guard 6-0 180 Fort Wayne, Ind./Morgan Park (Ill.)
4 Federico Mussini FR Guard 6-1 160 Reggio Emilia, Italy/Liceo Scientifico Aldo Moro
5 Durand Johnson GS Guard/Forward 6-6 210 Baltimore, Md.//Pittsburgh
10 Felix Balamou SR Guard 6-4 205 Conakry, Guinea/Our Savior New American (N.Y.)
11 Tariq Owens SO Forward 6-10 190 Odenton, Md.//Tennessee
12 Elijah Holifield FR Guard 6-2 180 Atlanta, Ga./Pace Academy
14 Kassoum Yakwe FR Forward 6-7 205 Bamako, Mali/Our Savior New American (N.Y.)
23 Abdul Dial FR Guard 6-3 195 West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman
24 Ron Mvouika GS Guard/Forward 6-6 210 Paris, France//Missouri State
35 Yankuba Sima FR Center 6-11 215 Girona, Spain/Elev8 Institute
45 Darien Williams JR Forward 6-8 225 San Francisco, Calif.//City College of San Francisco