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Blue Demons Hang On Late, Beat St. John's 77-75
Cleveland Melvin sank the go-ahead jumper with 2:19 left to lead DePaul to a win on Tuesday.

Cleveland Melvin sank the go-ahead jumper with 2:19 left to lead DePaul to a win on Tuesday.

Jan. 14, 2014

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­­ROSEMONT, Ill. – Winning becomes contagious, and on Tuesday night that sentiment was beginning to spread throughout DePaul’s Allstate Arena locker room.

Along with savoring a nail-biting 77-75 BIG EAST Conference victory over St. John’s, the Blue Demons were looking towards their next game.

“It’s always great to win, but we’re not satisfied,” said Brandon Young after finishing with 19 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals. “That’s what we were talking about in the locker room. We’re focusing on Villanova.

“Everybody contributed tonight. We played for 40 minutes and stayed together.”

D’Angelo Harrison (24 points) showed why he is among the best in the BIG EAST, hitting a pair of shots for a 74-70 St. John’s lead with more than four minutes to go. Cleveland Melvin’s free throws brought his team within two on a night when the Blue Demons (10-8, 2-3 in the BIG EAST) went a season-best 21-of-25 from the stripe.

After a Rysheed Jordan foul shot, Billy Garrett Jr. (21 points, five assists) and Melvin (16 points, seven rebounds, six blocks) hit clutch shots for a 76-75 lead. DePaul’s defense held firm for back-to-back empty Red Storm possessions.

Max Hooper missed on a 3-point attempt with four seconds to go and Young’s foul shot provided the final winning margin.

“Our defense was great down the stretch,” said DePaul coach Oliver Purnell as St. John’s (9-7, 0-4) was limited to one free throw over the final 4:35. “We were getting stops, blocked shots and steals. We had some gang rebounding on the last couple of plays.

“This was a real good win for us. I told the team before the game that it was time for us to make a statement win at home. We did it by playing defense better for longer. We had a dry spell in the second half and our defense kept us in the game.”

Back-to-back Garrett baskets from beyond the arc led to eight quick points for the freshman point guard early in the second half. Melvin followed Garrett’s three with a three-point play for a 51-48 Blue Demon lead. Garrett and Rysheed Jordan, two of the top freshmen in the conference, were waging a spirited battle at the point.

Harrison hit his fourth 3-pointer to tie it up 51-51 at the first media timeout. The teams exchanged baskets until Sir’ Dominic Pointer was called for a personal foul and a technical foul. Garrett made both technical foul shots and then set up Tommy Hamilton IV (13 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals) for a wide-open three and a 62-55 DePaul advantage.

“That was big,” Garrett said as DePaul snapped an eight-game St. John’s losing streak. “It gave us a little bit of a cushion for when they came back at us.”

The lead fluctuated between four and seven points into the middle of the second half. St. John’s closed to within two when Young buried a 3-pointer from right in front of the DePaul bench.

Orlando Sanchez’s three-point play with 8:28 left gave the Red Storm a 68-67 lead. Young came right back with a big 3-pointer. Another Sanchez basket tied it at 70 with 6:42 to go.

This crunch-time win followed up last Thursday’s 99-94 double-overtime success at Butler.

“Late in tonight’s game, we referenced the Butler game,” Garrett said. “That helped us a lot because we know we’ve been there before. Even when we went down by four, we stuck together and kept fighting.”

Purnell was pleased with his “Killer B” backcourt of Brandon and Billy.

“The guards were outstanding tonight,” said Purnell as Young and Garrett combined for 40 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and went 9-for-10 from the free throw line. “They made big shots, went to the line and didn’t turn the ball over. You win with guard play like that.

“Cleve hung in there and came up big for us down the stretch.”

Scoring eight of his team’s first 12 points, Hamilton helped the Blue Demons get off to a fast start. Harrison did his best to keep pace with five of St. John’s first nine points. Harrison came into the game fourth in the BIG EAST in scoring.

An early six-point spurt gave St. John’s a one-point lead. The lead went back and forth until DePaul’s six-point burst provided a 20-15 lead. Harrison retaliated with a 3-pointer before Greg Sequele scored down low off a nice feed from Hamilton.

A Red Storm eight-point run left DePaul trailing 26-22 in the middle of the first half. Garrett’s basket followed by his 3-pointer wrapped around a Jordan three brought DePaul within two.

Trailing by four, the Blue Demons responded with baskets by Melvin and Peter Ryckbosch and a pair of Garrett free throws for a 33-31 lead. Another Jordan three put the Red Storm up by one.

DePaul made 11 consecutive free throws until Melvin missed the back end of a two-shot foul near the end of the first half. Young’s spinning move and soft bank shot tied the game 38-38 at halftime.

Free throw shooting and rebounding enabled DePaul to stay even with a Red Storm team that went 5-for-5 from the 3-point arc in the first half while the Blue Demons were 1-for-9. DePaul finished 6-of-18 from three-point land while St. John’s was 7-of-14.

In the end, it was the better defense that prevailed as DePaul won back-to-back BIG EAST games for the first time since 2008.

“Give DePaul credit,” said St. John’s coach Steve Lavin. “They did a good job defensively down the stretch.”

The Blue Demons return to the court with a 3 p.m. Saturday tipoff at No. 6/6 Villanova that will be televised by the FOX Sports Network.

Notes: It was the 32nd meeting all-time between the two programs... St. John's holds a 17-15 advantage in the series, but DePaul snapped an eight-game losing streak in the series with the win... Hamilton reached double-figures for the eighth time this season and second time in a row... Young (1,626 points) passed Dallas Comegys (1,613 points, 1983-87) for eighth all-time on DePaul's all-time scoring list... the win marked the first back-to-back conference wins for DePaul since January of 2008... Garrett has knocked down 14 straight free throws after going 6-for-6 in tonight's game... Melvin finished with a career-high six blocks...