Men’s basketball: DePaul unable to close out game against St. John’s, falls to 0-3 in Big East


Donald Crocker

DePaul senior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty calls out a play during the Blue Demons’ win over Western Illinois on Saturday.

DePaul needed to win on Wednesday. 

A loss to a St. John’s team coming off a near three-week Covid pause would have been damaging to DePaul’s record and the momentum that it had built up during non-conference play. 

The Blue Demons had a chance to win in the close minutes of the game, but St. John’s Julian Champagnie took over in the second half to lead his team to a crucial 89-84 victory DePaul is now 9-4 overall and 0-3 in the Big East. 

Two years ago, DePaul started the season winning 12 of its first 13 games but that non-conference record didn’t translate to wins in the Big East, finishing the season with a 3-15 record in the conference. 

This year, the Blue Demons got off to a similar start, winning nine of their first 10 games, and once again raising expectations entering Big East play. But DePaul has had a tough time translating its non-conference performance to the Big East. 

That’s what made Wednesday’s game even more important, with St. John’s playing its conference game of the season and Villanova coming to Chicago on Saturday. DePaul is now potentially staring at an 0-4 conference record if it can’t beat the Wildcats. 

The Blue Demons can’t say they didn’t have their chances to win on Wednesday. After trailing by as many as 11 in the first half, DePaul worked its way back into the game in the second half.

Sophomore forward David Jones, who went scoreless in the first 20 minutes, provided a much-needed spark in the second half with 11 quick points. He helped ignite a 17-4 run from the 17-minute mark to the 11-minute mark that gave DePaul its largest lead of the game, 60-55.

The Blue Demons, however, couldn’t sustain that level of play for the final 11 minutes of the game. St. John’s quickly worked itself back within a basket, and a couple of minutes later, the Red Storm had their lead back. 

Sophomore guard Jalen Terry hit back-to-back 3-pointers that put DePaul up 66-65 with 8:40 to play in the game. He finished the game with 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists — his best performance in a DePaul jersey. 

St. John’s kept coming at DePaul in the closing seven minutes, with Champagnie leading the charge. He scored 14 of his game-high 34 points in the final seven minutes. 

The All-Big East player knocked down 3-pointers, he hit mid-range shots, drained free throws and even blocked shots on the defensive end. He made all the big plays when his team needed him to. 

DePaul had a much better offensive performance on Wednesday compared to its first two Big East games, but turnovers and free throw shooting remain a problem. The Blue Demons committed 16 turnovers, leading to 17 points for St. John’s, and missed nine free throws. 

Both turnovers and missed free throws played a big part in DePaul being unable to make the big plays late in the second half. 

DePaul did get within three, 84-81, with 55 seconds left in the game but Dylan Addae-Wusu hit a 3-pointer to seal the victory for the Red Storm. 

The first half was much more of a slugfest for both teams. Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field and DePaul only connected on 4-of-15 shots from the 3-point line.

The Blue Demons found themselves in an 11-point hole midway through the half, but got back in the game through forcing turnovers and Freeman-Liberty knocking down a couple of shots. The Red Storm, however, took a 39-35 lead into half-time. 

Freeman-Liberty led the Blue Demons with 24 points on 8-of-19 shooting. He has scored more than 20 points in back-to-back games. 

DePaul returns to action on Saturday when Villanova visits Wintrust Arena.