St. John’s was staring at its shot inside Carnesecca Arena, its shot to finally claim another victory, and its final shot of the season to win on its campus court.
The Red Storm arrived having not won in what seemed like forever. The Big East’s basement tenant had dropped a program-record 16 games in a row, including all 13 of its conference games. But another rebuilding team filled the away uniforms Wednesday night, second-to-last DePaul, a team that had dropped two straight and 13 of its last 16.
And now the streak is history. St. John’s built a 20-point cushion in the second half and posted a 80-65 victory.
Durand Johnson scored 18 points. Federico Mussini scored all 17 of his in the second half. And Kassoum Yakwe contributed 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
The last time the 8-19 Red Storm experienced a winning feeling came on Dec. 13 with an 84-72 decision over Syracuse at MSG.
Eli Cain scored 25 to pace the Blue Demons (8-17, 2-11).
DePaul immediately went on a run out of the locker room after halftime, scoring the first eight points to turn a seven-point deficit into a 32-31 lead.
But St. John’s responded, taking the lead right back on a layup by Felix Balamou and then getting three free throws by Mussini after he was fouled behind the arc.
Those five points were the start of a 16-3 burst. After Johnson stole the ball and fed Mussini for a layup, the Red Storm led 47-35 with 12:06 remaining, and Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao called for time.
That didn’t slow St. John’s. When Malik Ellison drove for two, the margin was up to a large 20 at 64-44 with six minutes to go. Cain scored the next eight points, keying a 15-3 run to get it down to 67-59 with 1:32 remaining.
Then DePaul’s Darrick Wood fouled Ron Mvouika nine seconds later and also picked up a technical for some extra chatter directed at Mvouika. Mussini nailed both free throws and St. John’s still had the ball. Yankuba Sima made a free throw. And Mussini hit two more to make it a 13-point game.
Back in the first half, Ellison buried two threes to key a 14-4 run. The freshman guard capped it by throwing an alley-oop to Yakwe for a 30-21 advantage, the Red Storm’s largest lead of the half.