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Chris Obekpa, Sir'Dominic Pointer block out DePaul rally as St. John's holds on

St. John's Chris Obekpa shoots over Creighton's Ethan

St. John's Chris Obekpa shoots over Creighton's Ethan Wragge during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014. Credit: AP / Jason DeCrow

All is not necessarily hunky-dory for St. John's. But Sunday's 72-64 win over DePaul likely secured a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament, which will be the last call for St. John's Big Dance possibilities.

The Red Storm (19-11) let a 20-point second-half lead dwindle to three with 4:11 to play and might have been in dire straits without hulking blocks by 6-9 sophomore Chris Obekpa and 6-5 junior Sir'Dominic Pointer down the stretch.

By emerging with a 9-8 Big East record, St. John's currently holds the tournament's No. 6 seed, the last to receive an automatic pass to the second round. Georgetown, 7-9 with games left against the conference's top two, Creighton and Villanova, at best could trigger a tiebreaker in the seeding if St. John's loses next week's regular-season finale at Marquette.

Meanwhile: "We won, and kudos to us," said St. John's D'Angelo Harrison, who had 25 points after shooting 5-for-26 in two straight losses. "But we've got to get ready for the next one. We flush everything -- the stats, the losses, the wins. Everything. And move on."

It was Harrison's early hot hand, converting six of his first eight field goals (3-for-5 on three-pointers), that propelled St. John's to a comfortable lead. A late surge by DePaul boiled a 48-28 St. John's lead down to 57-54. That was when Pointer, who had two blocked shots, and Obekpa, who had five, soared to stop DePaul.

"St. John's made two or three, maybe four or five, terrific defensive plays, game-saving blocks in the second half," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said.

There were 14 blocks in all -- Orlando Sanchez and God'sgift Achiuwa two each, JaKarr Sampson and Phil Greene one apiece. Even the 6-4 Harrison had one. "I learned from Chris," Harrison said of Obekpa.

"Everybody can jump, right?" Obekpa said. "The same way [Harrison] feels when he makes a game-winning shot, I'm happy on the defensive side."

Pointer finished with 14 points and Sanchez had 13. Brandon Young led DePaul (11-19, 3-14) with 23.

St. John's was operating without starting freshman point guard Rysheed Jordan, who was attending the funeral of an aunt killed in a reported double homicide. Coach Steve Lavin called the past week "unprecedented" because of the deaths of five people close to team members.

On Sunday, there were "Keystone Kops moments," Lavin said, but St. John's 43-26 rebounding edge and all those blocks made the difference. And there remains hope.

"If you can guard and protect the rim," Purnell said, "you can be in games. They certainly can be a dark horse in the Big East Tournament. Especially because it's in Madison Square Garden."

New York Sports