DePaul holds off St John’s in defensive battle for third straight win

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DePaul holds off St John’s in defensive battle for third straight win

DePaul freshman Sonya Morris shoots a jumper during the first half of the Blue Demons win over St. John's Friday night at McGrath-Phillips Arena. Joey Pusateri | The DePaulia

DePaul freshman Sonya Morris shoots a jumper during the first half of the Blue Demons win over St. John's Friday night at McGrath-Phillips Arena. Joey Pusateri | The DePaulia

DePaul freshman Sonya Morris shoots a jumper during the first half of the Blue Demons win over St. John's Friday night at McGrath-Phillips Arena. Joey Pusateri | The DePaulia

DePaul freshman Sonya Morris shoots a jumper during the first half of the Blue Demons win over St. John's Friday night at McGrath-Phillips Arena. Joey Pusateri | The DePaulia

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On a cold, snowy Friday night in Chicago, No. 24/24 DePaul (13-5, 4-2 Big East) defeated St. John’s (8-9, 1-5 Big East) 73-64 to extend its winning streak to three games in what was DePaul’s first of only two home games at McGrath-Phillips Arena in January.

Both junior forward Chante Stonewall and senior guard Ashton Millender shot four-of-six from behind the 3-point line. Stonewall scored a game-high 22 points and also had six rebounds while Millender finished with 12 points.

Junior guard Kelly Campbell also scored 12 points on just two field goals but attempted a game-high nine free throws while converting eight of them. Campbell had five rebounds as well in 39 minutes of play. Graduate transfer guard Rebekah Dahlman was the fourth DePaul player to reach double figures in points scored by putting up a quiet 10 points that included five-made free throws alongside a game-high seven rebounds.

DePaul outrebounded St. John’s 37-29 and won the battle of the offensive glass 14-8. Playing fast-paced on offense, DePaul collectively converted 12 3-pointers on a 42.9 percent shooting mark. Overall, DePaul shot just over 39 percent from the field in comparison to a 44.4 percent conversion mark by St John’s.  Equally important, DePaul reached the charity strike 21 times and buried 17 free throws, comparably, St. John’s shot 10-of-13 at the free throw line.

“I just really am proud of our team for their ability to take St. John’s really, really tough, hard punch in the second half and then answer it,” DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said. “In this game of basketball, the defense is really tied to the offense and the offense is tied to the defense. And you know it’s just important for us to find some offensive rhythm and we finally did.”

DePaul finished the first quarter on an 10-0 run in the last 5:28 to extend its lead 19-10. Stonewall scored eight points during that time period and converted on a pair of 3-point shots. Ashton Millender also hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter. St. John’s was limited to just three-of-13 from the field in the opening period.

“Everyone knows we’re a 3-point shooting team, so we try to get to the basket more,” Millender said. “So when we shoot the three, we can get to the basket as well.”

DePaul’s early momentum came to a halt, however, once the second quarter began. St. John’s scored four consecutive field goals to cut DePaul’s 24-18 lead with 6:14 to play, forcing Bruno to call a timeout. Following a back-and-forth scoring battle, St. John’s went on a second run in the quarter, nailing three baskets in a row to outscore DePaul 19-15. St. John’s also shot the ball at a 53.8 percentage mark in the second period.

DePaul still led the game 34-29 at halftime, and outrebounded St. John’s 21-15, including nine offensive rebounds in the opening half. Stonewall led all scorers at the halfway mark with 16 points and Alisha Kebbe scored a team-high 10 points for St. John’s. Assists were not plentiful in the first half, as both teams combined for just 14 total assists with DePaul leading the category nine-to-five.

“I’m sure traditionally we’ve always had a target on our backs and I feel like this year’s no different,” Stonewall said. “Everybody’s putting their best effort towards us. They always have, they always will.”

When the third quarter rolled around, St. John’s went on yet another run. This time around, it was an 11-0 run that was good enough to give St. John’s a 40-37 lead just three minutes in and temporarily silenced the home crowd.

DePaul immediately responded and regained the lead, 43-40, by way of back-to-back 3-point field goals by Sonya Morris and Millender. Afterwards, DePaul’s defense stepped up and held St. John’s scoreless in the final 3:52 of the third period. As a result, DePaul took a 51-48 lead heading into the fourth period.

“We finally got some offensive rhythm against a really good defensive St. John’s team,” Bruno said. “Probably late in the third and into the beginning of the fourth [is] where I finally saw some nice half court offensive rhythm that we’re used to here at DePaul, so it’s an important win. We had to have it. We have to have our home wins.”

A 7-0 DePaul run to open the fourth period helped extend the Blue Demons’ lead to 10 at 58-48. As the period progressed, St. John’s was able to bring the score to 65-60 before Rebekah Dahlman got fouled underneath the rim going up for a put-back layup with 1:21 remaining. Dalhman made both free throw attempts to give DePaul a 67-60 edge. From that point on, DePaul traded free throws with a few baskets from St. John’s to hang on to the win.

Seton Hall (11-6, 3-3 Big East) comes to Lincoln Park to face DePaul on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.