Women’s basketball beats St. John’s 66-54 in Big East tournament opener

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Long known as a great 3-point shooting team, DePaul finally seems to have put it all together this season.The 12th-ranked Blue Demons (27-5) hit just five of 18 attempts from behind the arc, but ran and slashed their way to a 66-54 win over St. John’s (21-10) on Sunday in the Big East quarterfinals.

Anna Martin scored 17 points, Keisha Hampton and Katherine Harry each added 10, and Sam Quigley had nine points and seven assists for the Blue Demons (27-5).

“This year something we’ve really been working on and it’s kind of helped us is being patient on offense – getting that inside-outside balance,” Quigley said. “Just because the 3 is taken (away) doesn’t mean there are not other things that can come to us.”

Nadirah McKenith had 12 points and seven steals, Amanda Burakoski had 11 points and Da’Shena Stevens added 10 for St. John’s (21-10).

The second-seeded Blue Demons led by nine at the half, and St. John’s could not get closer than seven points the rest of the way.

Much of DePaul’s offense early consisted of throwing the ball to Felicia Chester in the middle, who would kick it out to one of the perimeter players for a 3-point attempt or a drive to the basket. Chester had just six points, but pulled down 10 rebounds.

“The whole idea of this game is for the 3 to set up the post feeds and slashes and for the post feeds and slashes to set up the 3, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” coach Doug Bruno said.

The Blue Demons made just three of their first nine from behind the arc, but shot 50 percent from the floor and led 19-8 midway through the first half.

St. John’s hit just four of its first 16 shots, none of them from 3-point range.

A 13-2 run gave DePaul a 25-10 lead with 8 minutes left in the half. But the Blue Demons had just four more points before China Threatt hit a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left to give DePaul a 32-23 lead at the half.

“By the time we settled down, they had a pretty good lead, so we were battling back the whole game,” said St. John’s coach Kim Barnes Arico.

DePaul led by as many as 14 in the second half. A steal and layup by Nadirah McKenith cut the lead to 59-52 with 2 minutes left, and another McKenith layup off a turnover made it 61-54 with 1 minute remaining.

But St. John’s was forced to foul and the Blue Demons extended the lead from the line.

St. John’s shot just 32 percent from the floor, while DePaul hit 45 percent of its shots.

“It makes it really hard to defend them when they’re hitting their shots,” Stevens said. “So you’ve got to got outside on shooters and that leaves it open for the bigs down low, and they can finish. But you’ve got to try and take something away.”

The Blue Demons had 215 3-pointers in the regular season, but when the Red Storm would come out to guard them, DePaul’s guards were able to penetrate and either dish off or score.

The seeding is the Blue Demons’ highest since they joined the league in 2005-06.

DePaul is now 6-5 in Big East tournament play, with all six wins coming in the team’s opening game.

The Blue Demons will play the winner of the quarterfinal between Notre Dame and Louisville on Monday.

DePaul also won the regular-season meeting between the teams, beating St. John’s 69-54 in New York in January.

St. John’s had won seven of its last 10 games, including a 59-51 win over West Virginia in the second round to help its NCAA tournament resume.

Since the start of the 2003-04 season, DePaul is 143-25 when holding opponents to less than 70 points.

St. John’s is 3-8 all-time in Big East tournament play under coach Kim Barnes Arico and has never made it past the quarterfinals.

DePaul has won five of its last eight games, including a 70-69 win over Notre Dame on Feb. 28 to earn the tournament’s No. 2 seed.