Although St. John's was generally smaller than USF, the Red Storm (15-11, 5-9 BIG EAST) played such a smart defense and a fluid offensive game that it dug the Bulls (16-10, 6-8) into a deficit from which they would never recover.
The Johnnies went on to notch its third win of its last four games, grabbing the fighting Bulls by the horns, 74-58.
St. John's used a strong 2-3 zone in the first half to throw off the USF offense. The Bulls battled with St. John's throughout the first 12 minutes of game play, but lost its footing and allowed the Johnnies to surge on a 16-4 run to close out the first half with a 35-24 advantage. After watching a battle where the squads traded baskets, the Red Storm surge would result in the last lead change of the game.
The Johnnies opened the second stanza with a 5-0 run, which included the completion of a three-point play by D.J. Kennedy with less than a minute into the half. Kennedy, who shot only 1-of-10 in the contest with Seton Hall on Wednesday, in what he said was "probably one of the worst games of [his] life," finished with a team-high 17 points against USF.
On the play, St. John's was able to extend its advantage to as much as 16 points, 40-24.
Led by the near game-changing effort of USF's Mike Mercer (17 points), the Bulls almost staged a comeback. USF used a 13-2 run, sparked by a 3-pointer from Dominique Jones (17 points), to cut the deficit down to as little as four points, 43-39. Mercer, who scored eight points during the six-minute stretch, capped the surge with a lay-up off an offensive rebound with 10:42 to go.
Sensing a change in momentum, the Red Storm responded and pushed back. The Red Storm outscored the Bulls 17-9 in the following minutes, including draining three 3-pointers from deep. Johnnies' guard Paris Horne (11 points) hit two of his three 3-pointers during the stretch, which put the Bulls back into a 12-point hole, 60-48.
USF would continue to fight but never could bring it closer than nine points for the rest of the contest.
The Johnnies led 35-24 at the half.
St. John's continuous driving to the inside and earning the points off the bounce or at the charity stripe proved to be fruitful throughout the contest. As a result, the Red Storm saw much point production from all of its players that recorded minutes, except for big man Dele Coker. The Johnnies generated 15-of-23 opportunities at the line into points.
Defensively, St. John's limited USF's transition opportunities by taking better care of the basketball and playing tighter defense. In half-court sets, the Johnnies' perimeter defense was so good that the Bulls finished 2-of-12 from three-point land in the second half to finish only 5-of-22 on the contest.
St. John's shot a season-high 58.7 percent (27-for-46) from the field, including 50 percent from long range (5-for-10). The Johnnies also outrebounded the long USF squad 30-22. Floor general Malik Boothe added 10 points and four assists to the mix, while Justin Burrell chipped in seven points and a game-high 10 boards.
Anthony Mason Jr. , who finished with only seven points against USF, nailed his 1,000th career point at the free throw line with only 1:18 remaining in regulation. The redshirt senior forward, who had to sit out last season and much of the beginning of this season because of injury, became the 45th player in St. John's program history to score 1,000 career points.
Teammate Kennedy became the 44th member of the club earlier this month.