Following four straight victories, the St. John’s Red Storm (14-7, 6-3) would host the DePaul Blue Demons (10-10, 1-6) at Carnesecca Arena in Queens.
One of those Red Storm wins came against DePaul in Chicago with Jamal Branch scoring a career high 18 points in a 72-62 St. John’s victory.
Just a half minute into the game coach Steve Lavin called a time out for St. John’s following four straight offensive rebounds be DePaul. Two minutes later the Storm got on the board to tie the game at 2-2.
Both teams traded buckets to keep the game even until D’Angelo Harrison hit a three leading to a personal 5-0 run. 4 minutes into the game, the Red storm led 9-4.
Chris Obekpa got his first block of the game the possession after he had a strong, sidearmed pass to Amir Garret for a St. John’s bucket. This allowed the Storm to maintain their 11-7 lead with 12 to play in the first.
The Blue Demons would take tie it up and then take the lead following a Jamee Crockett three pointer. Marco Bourgault would match it with a downtown bucket of his own, and with 7 minutes to go in the half the Red Storm retained a 20-18 advantage.
Both teams would battle the for the lead over the next few minutes, until a Phil Greene three propelled St. John’s onto an 8-2 run. DePaul would end the run to get within two of the Storm in the last 3 minutes.
Harrison and Moses Morgan traded a couple of three pointers to keep things close, but a tricky layup by Branch would send St. John’s into halftime leading DePaul 38-31. The Storm committed just 1 turnover while forcing 10.
JaKarr Sampson started the half with a boom, throwing down a one handed dunk off a Harrison bounce pass. The Blue Demons did not let the momentum swing in favor of the Storm, going on a 5-0 run to get within four.
St. John’s would extend their lead again quickly, with Sir’Dom Pointer hitting a rare three. Crockett and Branch then exchanged buckets to make it 45-38 4 minutes into the second.
Neither team was able to score on consecutive possessions for the next 4 minutes. Obekpa broke that up with a free throw to give St. John’s a 54-46 lead.
The big lead would be short-lived, and with 6 to play on the night, DePaul would be just three points away, trailing 63-60.
The Blue Demons would eventually take the lead, but following two offensive rebounds by Pointer and a then a dunk, the teams were tied at 67 all with under 2 minutes remaining.
With .2 seconds remaining Sampson appeared to be fouled, but the ref didn’t blow his whistle until after the buzzer went off. As a result the game headed into overtime tied a 69.
While he wasn’t given a chance to win the game in regulation, Sampson took over in the extra time. He started the session with a block and then scored 6 points, including the bucket that gave the Storm their final lead. His effort was good enough to give St. John’s a 79-74 victory over DePaul.
“I knew I had to play in the system. If I got shots I knew I would have to take them.” Sampson said after the game. “But with the overtime I made it a paint game because my jumper wasn’t falling. I decided I was going to the rim instead of settling for jump shots.”
St. John’s had to play the overtime period without D’Angelo Harrison, who had fouled out of the game. Harrison had a team high 17 points on the night.
“It was tough but we have other players on this team and that what makes this team great. Harrison said of watching the overtime from the sideline. “We played great today and it was a total team effort.”
Harrison and the Red Storm will all be back on the floor Feburary 2 to face the Georgetown Hoyas in Washington.