D'Angelo Harrison picked up three quick fouls in less than three minutes to foul out with 3:45 left with St. John's trailing DePaul by two points. This was the worst-case scenario for a young Red Storm team that suddenly was without its rudder.
But Sir'Dominic Pointer and JaKarr Sampson showed the Red Storm had no shortage of guts as they combined to score all but two of St. John's final 14 points in a riveting 79-74 overtime victory over DePaul Wednesday night at Carnesecca Arena.
It was the fifth straight win for St. John's (14-7), which took over sole possession of third place in the Big East with a 6-3 record. Harrison finished with 17 points; Sampson and Phil Greene each had 13, and Jamal Branch and Pointer both had 11, plus 12 rebounds for Pointer.
Brandon Young topped DePaul (10-10, 1-6) with 21 points, but he committed a crucial flagrant foul against Pointer with St. John's holding a one-point lead with 1:04 left in overtime. Pointer made both shots. The Blue Demons missed a tying three-pointer before Sampson put it out of reach by hitting two of four foul shots at the end.
If St. John's has a signature win this season, this was it because of the toughness it showed without Harrison. The Red Storm outscored DePaul 14-7 after Harrison fouled out, and Pointer and Sampson each had six points in that stretch.
"It was big," said Pointer, who collected his own rebound just right of the lane and drove for a monster dunk to tie the score at 67 with 2:07 left in regulation and later dunked on a putback to tie it at 73 in OT. "Even though we rely on D'Angelo for a lot, we know we can play without him. This will help us down the road because we know we still can score the ball."
The score was tied at 69 in regulation, and St. John's had the ball with nine seconds left. After a scramble and a near-turnover, Sampson controlled the ball and attempted a layup that drew a whistle from referee Ed Corbett on DePaul's Donnavan Kirk at the buzzer. But Corbett looked at a replay and sent the game to overtime.
"Coach Lav said to get our minds set for OT," Sampson said of St. John's coach Steve Lavin. "I thought I got it off in time, but I couldn't tell."
Sampson set the tone early in overtime when DePaul's Charles McKinney got a layup attempt off the opening tip and the 6-8 freshman came from behind to stuff it. Even so, DePaul came back to take a 74-73 lead on a free throw by Young with 2:06 left. But Sampson's dunk gave St. John's a one-point lead, and then Young was called for the intentional foul on Pointer, who hit both foul shots before Sampson put it out of reach with two more.
Harrison was unhappy with himself for fouling out but liked what he saw. "This was an 'experience game,' especially for JaKarr," Harrison said. "It was just great to see."
Series to continue. St. John's and Syracuse issued a joint announcement that they will continue a series that dates to 1912, even after the Orange moves to the ACC next season. Their Feb. 10 game in Syracuse will be their 87th meeting.