Red Storm Comeback Falls Short at DePaul


Ron Mvouika attempts a shot against DePaul (Photo: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

Troy Mauriello, Staff Writer

A strong second half cut a 21-point deficit down to just six in the closing minutes; however, the St. John’s men’s basketball team suffered yet another hard-fought, 83-75 loss on the road at DePaul on Thursday night.

The Red Storm took to the road in search of their second conference win of the season looking to sweep the season series with DePaul, but a lackluster defensive effort and a poor first half performance eventually were their downfall.

Graduate student forward Ron Mvouika led the Johnnies with a season-high 20 points on the night, while Durand Johnson, Malik Ellison and Christian Jones all scored in double figures with 15, 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Despite scoring only six points, senior guard Felix Balamou dished out a team-high seven assists on the night. Ellison would add six assists and four rebounds as well.

However, those performances weren’t enough to dig St. John’s out of a 17-point halftime deficit.  The Red Storm looked lost on the defensive end after a dreary first-half performance.

The two bottom teams in the Big East this season played to a 17-17 tie over the first ten minutes of the game as neither team would lead by more than three early on. But, from that point on, the Blue Demons went on a scoring run to give them a lead that they would not relinquish.

A 21-6 run over the next seven minutes gave DePaul a 15-point, 38-23 lead with 3:04 remaining in the half, and the Blue Demons eventually extended that lead to 17 points to take a 45-28 lead into the half.

DePaul shot 19-29 (66 percent) as a team in the half, as Freshman guard Eli Cain continued to give the Red Storm fits with 11 first half points. Cain scored a career-high 25 points on 9-16 shooting in the first meeting between the two teams on Feb. 17.

As the second half got underway, the DePaul lead would balloon to as large as 21 but, from there, the resilient Johnnies would be on the comeback trail. Mvouika and Johnson began to find their stroke from downtown as the Red Storm hit seven 3-pointers in the second half.

St. John’s wouldn’t cut the lead down to single-digits until the 2:47 mark when a Yankuba Sima dunk made it 73-64 DePaul. A 3-pointer from Johnson made things interesting at 77-71 with 35 seconds left; however, the Blue Demons hit all six of their free throws down the stretch to all but put things away.

The loss was the 18th  out of 19 tries for the Red Storm as their woes continued in Big East play. After a Sunday afternoon tilt against Creighton, they’ll close the regular season out against Providence on March 5.

Despite his team’s struggles in his first season on the sidelines, head coach Chris Mullin maintains a positive outlook going forward.

“We are taking all these lessons, will continue to work hard and (we’re) going to flip the script. That’s what the offseason will be focused on,” he told reporters on a teleconference Friday.