NEW YORK — Guard Brandon Young and DePaul came alive in the second half, but it was not enough to knock off St. John’s as the Red Storm held on for a 72-64 win Sunday before 10,670 at Madison Square Garden.
DePaul trailed by as many as 20 points in the second half, but battled back to get to within three points, 57-54, with 3:19 left in the game. St. John’s outscored DePaul 15-10 to seal the win.
The Blue Demons used the long ball to get back into the game. They converted seven of 11 3-pointers in the second half, finishing 10 of 23 for the game.
Red Storm center Chris Obekpa blocked two of his five shots 20 seconds apart with St. John’s ahead 59-54 at the 2:38 mark. St. John’s recorded 14 blocks in the game.
The Blue Demons reduced the deficit by going on an 18-4 run to get to within six points at 52-46 with 7:51 to play. Forward James Crockett scored all of his six points in the burst.
With only one game left in Big East play, the Blue Demons (11-19, 3-14 Big East) are in danger of finishing in last place in the conference for the sixth straight season. Coach Oliver Purnell’s team is home to Butler on Thursday, a team it defeated in double-overtime on Jan. 9. Butler is 2-14 in the conference.
“It’s as important of a game as any game this season,” Purnell said of the Butler meeting. “It’s senior night and they have a little bit more momentum and a little more confidence coming back that we can put together 35 or 40 minutes of play.”
The highest DePaul has finished in the conference standings is seventh in 2006-07 — its second season in the Big East.
Young, who has assumed the scoring duties for DePaul since Cleveland Melvin left the school Feb. 10, led the Blue Demons with 23 points. He tossed in 12 points in the second half after a sluggish first half by the Blue Demons, in which they trailed by as many as 14 points.
“Clearly we ask him (Young) to do more in looking to score,” Purnell said. “It’s tough on him, but we have to produce some offense somewhere.
“He’s playing pretty hard and trying to lead down the stretch.”
DePaul is 1-5 since Melvin’s departure. The Big East’s Rookie of the Year in 2011, Melvin ranked among DePaul’s all-time leaders in several offensive categories and averaged a team-high 16.7 points this season.
Guard D’Angelo Harrison paced St. John’s (19-11, 9-8) with 25 points and 10 rebounds. The Red Storm ended a brief two-game losing streak after reeling off six straight wins.
St. John’s committed 16 turnovers, its second most this season.
“There were sequences that were reminiscent of a keystone cops routine,” said St. John’s coach Steve Lavin. “We were not pleased with taking care of the basketball against the press. We took some ill-advised shots.
“DePaul was opportunistic. They banged down 3s, but part of that was to take away their inside game. We deployed our defense to block shots. We hung on because we built a big lead.”
The Blue Demons recorded their fewest points in the first half this season, trailing 33-21. Harrison led the Red Storm with 13 points. St. John’s produced six blocked shots and dominated the paint, outscoring DePaul 16-6 in the low post.
“It’s pretty clear I think we played far better in the second half than we did in the first,” Purnell said. “We really dug ourselves a hole. In fact I really felt good that we were only down 12 at the half.
“But we had to use so much energy to get there in the second half. We just ran out of gas. The kids fought hard in the second half, but you can’t have a half like this against a pretty good team on their home court.”
Young tossed in nine points as DePaul shot 30 percent from the floor. It was just 3 of 12 from 3-point range.
The Blue Demons started the game by converting only two of their first 13 shots and trailed 16-4 with 11:13 left in the
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