Midway through conference play, St. John’s has become a serious factor in the Big East.
On the second-to-last day of January, the Red Storm won their fifth game in a row, sweeping their season series against DePaul with a 79-74 overtime victory at Carnesecca Arena.
St. John’s is now 14-7 overall -- they’ve already won more games this season than they did all of last season (13-19). More importantly, the Red Storm are 6-3 in the Big East -- in sole possession of third place, behind only Syracuse and Marquette.
The turning point: St. John’s and DePaul traded the lead several times in the first half. The Red Storm closed with five consecutive points to take their largest lead thus far, 38-31, at intermission.
St. John’s expanded the lead to nine at the beginning of the second half, but DePaul clawed back to tie the game at 58 with 7:12 to play. The Blue Demons took their first lead of the second half on a pair of Cleveland Melvin free throws with 3:46 left -- D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s leading scorer, fouled out on the play.
St. John’s still had a chance to win the game in regulation. With the game tied at 69-69, the Red Storm had the ball in the final seconds. Jakarr Sampson was fouled in the paint, but after a video review, it was determined that the foul occurred after time had expired.
St. John’s trailed early in overtime, but went ahead for good on a Sampson putback, followed by two Sir’Dominic Pointer free throws to make it 77-74 with 1:04 remaining in overtime. DePaul had one shot attempt to tie -- a 3-pointer by Jamee Crockett with 15.8 seconds left, but it missed.
Star watch: Nine of the 10 St. John’s players who saw action scored -- all five starters were in double figures, led by Harrison, who scored 17 points despite sitting out the final eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Brandon Young had a game-high 21 points for DePaul.
Number crunch: DePaul had 18 turnovers in the game, while St. John’s had just five in 45 minutes -- an outstanding job taking care of the basketball.
What’s next: St. John’s plays Georgetown -- the last team to beat the Storm -- on Saturday at 4 p.m., in Washington, D.C.
DePaul hosts Notre Dame on Saturday at 2 p.m.