St. John’s ends 16-game losing streak with win over DePaul
NEW YORK (AP) — Durand Johnson had been to a lot of postgame news conferences in the last two months. This one was different.
“We got one. That’s why I’m smiling,” Johnson said Wednesday night after St. John’s ended a 16-game losing streak with an 80-65 victory over DePaul.
Ron Mvouika, the other graduate transfer on the Red Storm, leaned into the microphone.
“It’s about damn time,” he said with a huge smile. “We’re not done but it feels great.”
The Red Storm last won on Dec. 13, against Syracuse. They blew by the old school record of seven straight losses. The streak was the longest in Division I. They finally got to celebrate after a game.
“It’s somewhat of a relief and somewhat justified,” first-year coach Chris Mullin said. “They got a win and they had played well enough to win they just haven’t broken through. You can only do so much. They have to break through themselves.”
St. John’s (8-19, 1-13) managed its first Big East win of the season rather easily except for some frenetic minutes down the stretch when the Blue Demons cut a 20-point deficit to nine.
“Th4e first step is to win a game and now we have to build off this,” said Johnson, who finished with 18 points. “It feels good to be on the winning side for change. Now we have to build on it and get a couple more wins.”
Federico Mussini scored all of his 17 points in the second half and the energy he brought off the bench was the key to the win.
St. John’s had a 31-24 halftime lead but things didn’t look good at the start of the second half as the Blue Demons (8-17, 2-11) scored the first eight points of the half to take a 32-31 lead.
But the Red Storm got the lead right back on a rebound basket by Felix Balamou and they never gave it back.
“We were playing good in the first half but we knew we had to put more energy in and when we didn’t start good in the second half I came off the bench and gave us some energy.”
Mussini had half the points in a 14-2 run that gave St. John’s a 54-37 lead with 9:12 to play. The Red Storm went on to lead by 20 with 6 minutes to play. DePaul got as close as 74-65 in the final minutes.
Kassoum Yakwe and Malik Ellison had 11 points each for St. John’s, which has won 11 of the last 13 meetings with DePaul and seven straight at home.
“From a basketball point it was brutal,” Mullin said of the streak. “But they can’t take this to the next game. They have to perform. They’ll feel better about themselves but the preparation and approach won’t vary.”
Eli Cain had a career-high 25 points for DePaul, which has lost three straight and five of six.
“We didn’t respond when they answered our start to the second half,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. “They had been playing so hard for Chris and tonight they played well enough to get a win.”
The Blue Demons missed their first nine 3-point attempts and finished 4 for 19 from beyond the arc.
St. John’s came into the game last in 10-team Big East in almost every statistical category but it didn’t look that way against DePaul. The Red Storm came in averaging 66.5 points on 39.6 percent shooting. They finished shooting 44.1 percent (26 of 59)
BILL’S BOBBLEHEAD: Fans at Carnesecca Arena were given a bobblehead of former St. John’s center Bill Wennington. The three-time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls played with Mullin on St. John’s Final Four team in 1985. The 7-foot Wennington is one of nine players in St. John’s history to have 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks.
SEE YOU SOON: St. John’s and DePaul meet again in eight days at Allstate Arena.
TOUGH GAMES: The last game for each team was against No. 1 Villanova. The Red Storm lost at Villanova 73-63 last weekend, and the Blue Demons lost 85-59 to the Wildcats at home on Feb. 9.
DePaul: The Blue Demons’ Big East wins were over Providence and Marquette. ... Billy Garrett Jr. is one of the leading free throw shooters in the conference at 83.8 percent. Twelve times in DePaul history has a player gone 11-for-11 from the free throw in a game and Garrett has done it four times. He was 5 for 8 from the line Wednesday. Garrett injured an ankle just before halftime but he played in the second half and finished with 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting, including 1 of 6 from 3-point range.
“Billy doesn’t rely on speed and quickness for his game and he said he was OK and he tried to tough it out,” Leitao said.
St. John’s: This was the Red Storm’s last game of the season at on-campus Carnesecca Arena. Their final two home games will be at Madison Square Garden. St. John’s was 5-6 at Carnesecca this season. ... St. John’s entered the game first in the Big East and sixth in Division I in blocked shots at 5.9 per game. The Red Storm had seven blocks Wednesday.
DePaul hosts Marquette on Saturday.
St. John’s hosts Seton Hall on Sunday.