Usually, the consensus is that St. John's is a squad that plays hard. But, the Johnnies (16-14, 6-12 BIG EAST) wouldn't have expected to have to play tough through the first triple overtime in the Norm Roberts Era.
St. John's closed out its BIG EAST conference schedule with a 90-82 triple OT victory over DePaul, in the senior nightcap for the Blue Demons (8-22, 1-17).
In a game that lasted a few minutes shy of three hours, STJ might have started out sluggish, but showed up when it was important.
The Red Storm did not lead for any of the regulation period, but took the lead for the first time, 62-60, on a basket by Paris Horne assisted by D.J. Kennedy with 2:05 left in the first overtime period. And, on the next possession, at the 1:08 mark, Kennedy stroked his seventh career-high 3-pointer (7-of-9) to give the Johnnies a 65-60 lift.
St. John's got out to mini leads in each of the overtime periods, thereafter.
Kennedy, who played for 48 minutes, scored a career-high 32 points in the contest on 8-of-15 shooting and 9-of-12 from the stripe. He also had nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Meanwhile, teammate Horne notched a season-high 20 points in 48 minutes of game time.
The Johnnies had a close call in the second OT period, when a one-handed rebound putback by Mac Koshwal (23 points and 10 rebounds) and a double-pump basket by Jeremiah Kelly (13 points) knotted the game at 77 with 54 seconds remaining. STJ had an empty possession and DePaul got the ball back. Kelly got off a basket as time ticked away, but a hand in the face by Malik Boothe (nine points, six boards and six assists) and a secured board by Kennedy, let the Johnnies live to fight another period.
Boothe had already played in 46 minutes, en route to a game-high 51 minutes of playing time.
St. John's outscored DePaul in the third OT 12-2, after being tied up at 80 at the start of that post-regulation period. Anthony Mason Jr. (14 points, nine rebounds and four assists) netted a sharp 3-pointer and a big block that led to the Johnnies six-point margin, 88-82 with about 37.2 seconds remaining in the period.
The only sign of fatigue for the Red Storm was a subtle lean forward by Kennedy before he nailed two of his final four free throws of the contest.
Despite shooting only about 29 percent in the first half, St. John's finished the contest shooting 43.3 percent (29-of-67) from the field and an effective 50 percent (12-of-24) from 3-point land.
Thanks to smart offense by Kennedy at the 14:10 mark of the second half, Koshwal, who did not play in the first game of the STJ-DEPAUL series on Jan. 17, was sent to the bench after picking up his third and fourth foul within seconds of each other. At the time, STJ was trailing the Blue Demons 41-28.
The Red Storm, who were unable to get anything going in the first half, used 6-foot-10, 255-pound Koshwal's absence as an advantage and got a dynamic spark under their feet to change the Blue Demons' momentum in the second stanza.
St. John's Kennedy created a 16-4 run with three consecutive 3-pointers to bring his Queens, N.Y. squad within four points, 41-37, at the 11:53 mark of the second half. And, on DePaul's next possession, Kennedy blocked a shot attempt, while teammate Justin Brownlee returned it for a one-of-two performance from the line to make it a three-point differential, 41-38, seconds later.
DePaul, ultimately, knocked down three 3-pointers to go back up by 12 points, 52-40, with 8:50 left. Included in the comeback was a 3-pointer by Kelly to snap the Red Storm run.
At the 5:48 mark of the second stanza, Kennedy nailed his fifth trey of the game to close the gap 52-47, en route to his career-high seven 3-pointers to fight back. Minutes later, Horne nailed a 3-pointer of his own at the 2:42 mark to give the Johnnies its closest margin of regulation, 56-54.
STJ junior forward Justin Burrell (10 points and 11 boards) threw down a dramatic jam off a Kennedy drive-and-kick with two seconds left in regulation. The play resulted in the first tie of the game and overtime extension began.
DePaul jumped out to a 7-0 lead with only a few minutes into the first half. A goaltending call on a basket by Will Walker (10 points), put the squad up by as much as 20 points, 30-10, at the 7:01 mark of the first stanza. DePaul's Mike Stovall (19 points) displayed hot outside shooting to aid in the Blue Demon run.
In the first half, the Red Storm struggled to make buckets happen, while DePaul played good defense in the middle to force outside shots and slow down offense in the paint. STJ gave up points in transition and, offensively, could not fight its way over the double-digit hump.
Down the stretch, Horne banked a shot before the close of the stanza to trail the Blue Demons by only as close as 14 points, 37-21, at halftime.