St. John’s was staring at its shot inside Carnesecca Arena, its shot to finally claim a victory, and its final shot of the season to win on its campus court.
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 last night. DePaul entered having lost 13 of its last 16.
And now the streak is history.
St. John’s built a 20-point cushion in the second half on its way to an 80-65 victory. Durand Johnson scored 18 points and Federico Mussini scored all 17 of his in the second half. Kassoum Yakwe added 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
“I’m happy for the guys in the locker room,” coach Chris Mullin said. “They work really hard.” The last victory for the 8-19 Red Storm came on Dec. 13 with an 84-72 decision over Syracuse at the Garden.
“Building from where we started, there’s been a lot of good things going on,” Mullin said. “We haven’t gotten the wins, but all this stuff is part of building and part of the process to become a winning program again.”
Eli Cain scored 25 to pace the Blue Demons (8-17, 2-11).
“I was really leery that this was the game that they would earmark that they could be successful at,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said.
DePaul scored the first eight points of the second half to take a 32-31 lead. But Mullin went to his bench, and St. John’s responded. It took the lead on a layup by Felix Balamou and Mussini followed with three free throws 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 left.
Malik Ellison drove for two, and extended the lead to 64-44 with six minutes to go. But 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 made 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.
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.