Getting back on the right track

For much of the season, the St. John’s men’s basketball team has been led statistically by D.J. Kennedy and Paris Horne. But Sunday against DePaul, two other leaders emerged.

Justin Burrell and Anthony Mason Jr., two players with extensive injury histories while at

St. John’s, emerged as centerpieces of the Red Storm’s 67-47 rout of the Blue Demons at Carnesecca Arena.

Burrell led the Red Storm with 11 points, going 3-of-4 from the field and 5-of-6 from the free throw line in 10 minutes. Since his return from a high ankle sprain suffered at Duke on Dec. 12, he has slowly acclimated himself to the offensive rotation.

“I’ve never been a scorer like that,” Burrell said. “As long as I’ve been here, I’ve never been a scorer like that. Any way I can help my team. Any way I can help.

As long as we win, I’m happy. Nothing else really matters to me.”

Mason Jr., in his third game since returning from a hamstring injury suffered in early September, had eight points and 10 rebounds, playing noticeably more aggressive than he did against Cincinnati last Wednesday, when he didn’t even attempt a field goal until the second half.

Mason Jr. said he’s discovered a change in his role with the Red Storm. While being called upon as a top scorer early in his career, he’s now focusing on creating offensive opportunities for his teammates, sincehe considers himself “still a little rusty at times.”

That willingness to share the ball, however, led to three turnovers Sunday, including a pass he threw out of bounds to Rob Thomas as the shot clock wound down early in the first half.

The Red Storm held DePaul to 32 percent shooting, as the Blue Demons went 16-for-50 from the field. On the other end, 11 St. John’s players scored and six had at least five points.

Following a media timeout near the end of the first half, the Red Storm went on a 14-5 run and went to halftime with an 11-point lead. Midway through the second half, the Storm increased that lead to 29. They led by as many as 31.

“In the first half our energy, for this kind of game [wasn’t good],” Burrell said. “They like to dribble-drive a lot, and our energy wasn’t good. But in the second half,

our pressure was good, we made them do things they weren’t comfortable in doing.”

The Red Storm improved to 2-3 in conference play after losing the first three Big East games of the season. They are 12-5 overall. Despite the improvement, one thing that hasn’t changed is the Red Storm’s confidence.

“I don’t think I ever changed [my mentality],” Mason Jr. said. “You’ve got to still stay positive and think of our goals for this team for where we want to be in March. I don’t think we ever had much of a ‘down time,’ we just have to stay

up and prepare for the next game.

“You’ve got to stay positive. We came in here thinking ‘We’re going to get this win and focus on DePaul’ and that’s what we did.”

Will Walker led DePaul with 14 points in the full 40 minutes. The Blue Demons have lost 24 straight conference games, their last win on Mar. 6 2008 at Cincinnati, and three straight since firing head coach Jerry Wainwright on Jan. 11.

DePaul also beat the Bearcats in the first round of the Big East Tournamentlast March.