Jessica January scored a game-high 20 points and No. 1 seed DePaul avenged a loss to St. John’s in last year’s Big East tournament semifinals as the Blue Demons beat the No. 5 seeded Red Storm 59-41 in semifinal play Monday night at the Al McGuire Center.
January had two points in DePaul’s quarterfinal win Sunday night against Seton Hall, but she scored the game’s first basket tonight.
“I'm obviously really excited to be back, and like Coach Bruno said, we kind of had a choppy game offensively, and I think everyone just did a good job being aggressive still and trying to take advantage of the easy opportunities that we did have,” January said.
DePaul is 2-0 in Big East title games, but has lost to Marquette twice this season. The Blue Demons have won nine of their last 10 games and Marquette has won seven in a row. DePaul is 4-0 versus Marquette in conference tournament play. The Red Storm’s 41 points is the lowest by a DePaul opponent in Big East tournament history.
St. John’s is No. 17 in the country in defense, giving up an average of 55.5 ppg. The Red Storm is now 2-9 when trailing going into the final period.
The Red Storm wore down Villanova in the two teams’ quarterfinal match up, but it was DePaul that did the wearing down tonight, both offensively and defensively.
The Red Storm’s Aaliyah Lewis scored a career-high 27 points versus Villanova, but the combination of Lauren Prochaska, January, and Amarah Coleman held Lewis without a field goal until 3:35 of the third quarter. Lewis finished with nine points, but shot just 2-13 from the field.
“It’s definitely a team effort,” Prochaska said of DePaul’s defense on Lewis. “It's not ‘I stop you, it's we stop they’, and I think we did a pretty good job. [Lewis] was coming off an amazing scoring game last night, so I think everyone did a really good job of when it was their time to step up and defend, and got the job done overall pretty well.”
Prochaska finished with eight points on 3-5 shooting from the field to go with four rebounds and two blocks.
DePaul shot 5-5 from the field in the second quarter during an 11-2 run. Prochaska’s three-pointer from the right corner, a January lay up, a Tanita Allen jumper, and another Prochaska jumper gave DePaul a 25-13 lead. Prochaska’s steal off Andrayah Adams at half court and assist to Coleman pushed the lead to 29-13.
January scored the first field goal of the fourth quarter, and a fast break of Prochaska to January to Kelly Campbell to Chante Stonewall for a lay up boosted DePaul’s lead to 45-27 with 9:16 left to play in the game.
Prochaska’s three-point play with 5:30 to play forced the Red Storm’s frustration to boil over, with St. John’s Maya Singleton assessed with a technical foul.
Neither team scored for the last 6:52 of the third quarter.
“The concept of beating a team three times is something that people like to say, and I guess it's true, but the way we approach basketball is we never play three times, we play one time,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “And we played [Marquette] once in Chicago and, to Marquette's credit, they came and took it from us after we had a 15 or 16 point lead. Prochaska went down in the second half.
“In game two here in Milwaukee, [Marquette] just kicked our butts. I mean, they just came out and flat-out beat us from the opening jump to the end of the game, and that's, again, a credit to a really, really talented Marquette team.”
DePaul plays Marquette, which beat Creighton in the other semifinal game, for the tournament title Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. Central Time.
DEPAUL 12 17 12 18
ST. JOHN’S 9 4 14 14