In their first game as a ranked team since the Mike Jarvis era (December 2000), the St. John’s Red Storm (18–9, 10–5) rolled over last place DePaul (7–20, 1–13) 76–51 Wednesday night at Carnesecca Arena.
The win was St. John’s fifth in a row and moved the Johnnies into a third place tie with Louisville and Georgetown in the ultra-competitive Big East, just two games behind first place Pittsburgh.
Dwight Hardy led the hot-shooting Red Storm with 21 points, while D.J. Kennedy added 11 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season (all in conference play). St. John’s shot 54 percent from the field while holding DePaul to just 32 percent. DePaul freshman forward (and leading scorer) Cleveland Melvin led the Blue Demons with 16 points.
“Tonight’s victory is an example of a team developing a hard edge and maturity that will bode well for us coming down the home stretch and into the postseason,” said St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin.
“This is a legitimate Big East team and if you’re a legitimate Big East team in the top echelon in the league, you can beat any team in the country,” said DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell about St. John’s.
The Red Storm actually trailed 7–6 after a pair of early DePaul 3-pointers before reeling off a 9–0 run to take a 15–7 lead with just over 13 minutes remaining.
It would be a lead they would never relinquish.
DePaul kept things somewhat interesting in the early going as Melvin’s shot with 8:02 remaining narrowed the Red Storm lead to 21–14 before the flood gates opened and St. John’s went on a back-breaking 14–2 run to extend the lead to 35–16 with just under two minutes until halftime, effectively ending the game.
The Red Storm carried a 37–22 lead into halftime as Dwight Hardy, fifth in the Big East in scoring at 17.2 points per game, already had 11 points by the intermission.
“We just wanted to come out and get a huge win by a large amount of points,” said Hardy.
The second half would bring more of the same as less than two minutes after the start of it, Hardy and Kennedy would score back-to-back buckets to push the lead to 41–22 and a prompt a timeout from first-year DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell.
Minutes later a technical from the DePaul bench sent Kennedy to the free throw line to extend the lead to 46–24.
As the Red Storm lead grew larger, so must have the DePaul frustration as a second technical foul on their bench, just minutes after the first one, put Hardy on the line. He promptly extended the lead to 54–28 with 13:06 remaining.
The lead swelled all the way to 61–31 at the 10:35 mark as the Red Storm looked comfortable throughout before settling for a 76–51 win.
Among some of the highlights for St. John’s was senior guard Paris Horne’s 139th career three-pointer. He is in third place in that category now just 12 behind the school record, despite having hit just 17 this year compared to 61 in his sophomore year as the unselfish guard seems uninterested in personal achievements.
Another positive for St. John’s was the play of freshman forward Dwayne Polee Jr. The 6-foot-7-inch super-athletic kid from Los Angeles made several great defensive plays. He was credited with three blocked shots and he altered another.
But his dunk off an alley-oop pass from Malik Boothe with 12:45 remaining brought the crowd to its feet and gave fans a taste of what to expect from the senior-laden team in the years to come.
What’s coming up next for the Red Storm is a Saturday afternoon game at 14th-ranked Villanova (21–7, 9–6). Tip off is at 2 p.m.