ROSEMONT, Ill. — A dominant first half Thursday at Allstate Arena was enough for DePaul to knock off St. John’s, 83-75, and prevent falling into a tie for last place.
Billy Garrett Jr. returned, and he was huge. The junior point guard missed the last game against Marquette with an ankle injury but started Thursday. He dominated the first half with nine points, six assists and no turnovers. He also had a pair of steals.
The St. John’s defense tightened up in the second half, and Garrett could not impose his will as easily. Still, he finished with 19 points, 10 assists and three steals, marking the third double-double of his career and first of the season.
DePaul (9-18, 3-12 Big East) got to the rim at will in the first half. The Blue Demons nearly outscored St. John’s in the first half with points in the paint alone, tallying 24 points there.
Eli Cain, Myke Henry and Garrett sliced through St. John’s defense time and time again and combined for 30 points as DePaul built a 45-28 halftime lead. With good post and offensive rebound positioning, Rashaun Stimage added six points at the rim in the opening 20 minutes.
DePaul kept St. John’s (8-21, 1-15) out of the lane. 17 of the Johnnies 25 shots in the first half were jumpers, and they made only five of them.
14 of St. John’s first 19 shots in the second half were jumpers as well. The jumpers started falling in the second half, which allowed St. John’s to close the gap to as few as 11 points early in the period.
Some sloppy execution late in the game by DePaul allowed St. John’s to get within 77-71 with 35 seconds remaining. But ultimately the Red Storm could not overcome a 32-22 advantage in paint for the Blue Demons.
DePaul used a balanced scoring attack. While Garrett paced the offense all night, four other Blue Demons scored in double figures. Cain had 16 points, including 11 in the first half. Henry had 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Junior center Tommy Hamilton snuck in a quiet 10 points and was the team’s second-highest scorer in the second half after Garrett with six points.
Stimage barely missed his first double-digit performance since Jan. 2 at Seton Hall. The senior forward finished with nine points on 4-of-4 shooting along with six rebounds and two blocks.
DePaul’s magic number for the No. 9 seed is down to one. Either one more DePaul win or one more St. John’s loss will give the Blue Demons the No. 9 seed.
That being said, even if DePaul loses out and St. John’s wins out, the Blue Demons would still get the No. 9 seed if Marquette finishes ahead of Creighton in the Big East standings.