In a must win match-up to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive, St. John’s defeated DePaul, 86 to 78, at Carnesecca Arena last Wednesday night.
D’Angelo Harrison, 33 points on 10 for 14 shooting and 10 rebounds, has been battling numerous injuries the past couple of weeks but he finally looked 100 percent against the Blue Demons.
“I just wanted to do whatever my team asked to win the game,” Harrison said. “And I am feeling more healthy.”
Phil Greene added 18 points and Sir’Dominic Pointer had yet another double double, 15 points and 11 rebounds. Rysheed Jordan shot only 2 for 9 but scored 15 points and played solid defense on Billy Garrett Jr. for most of the night.
Chris Obekpa was inactive for the Johnnies with an ankle injury but surprisingly the home team dominated DePaul on the glass, 43-27, and blocked seven shots.
“To out-rebound them by 16 says a lot about our kids grit, hustle and mentality,” Steve Lavin said. “We found a way to offset not having Obekpa at our disposal.”
DePaul, like in the first match-up between these two teams, can get hot quickly and without Obekpa, the Johnnies used a stingy five-guard lineup to challenge every outside look their opponent had. They limited the Blue Demons to 9 for 25 from three and held them to 45 percent shooting from the field.
On the offensive side of the ball, St. John’s shot 52 percent, 57 percent from downtown and 75 percent from the free throw strike.
But Harrison was the real key to the victory. His passion, desire and energy was on an early season level and the rest of the roster was feeding off that momentum.
“He’s a lot more aggressive,” Greene said about Harrison’s health. “It’s very big that he’s back. His all around presence helps us a lot. It opens up gaps for me, Dom and Rysheed.”
Harrison hit three pointers on consecutive possessions early in the second half to put the Johnnies up by double-digits and it looked like the game was going to be out of reach. But, DePaul didn’t fall down easily. They battled back until an eye-opening sequence was started by a Pointer block and finished by a wide-open fast break dunk by Harrison.
Amar Alibegovic, 2 points and 4 rebounds, was very impressive off the bench and continues to look like a key cog for the Johnnies moving forward. The 6’9” big man from Rome, Italy has become more accustom to the college lifestyle and that has definitely sparked his game on the court.
Billy Garrett Jr. led DePaul with 18 points but was only able to dish out 1 assist. Jamee Crockett had 17 points and Tommy Hamilton IV put up 18 points and 9 rebounds.
The Johnnies have three of their next five games at home including a match-up with rival Seton Hall on Saturday at Carnesecca Arena.