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Red Storm Returns to MSG to Host DePaul

The St. John’s men’s basketball team will make its BIG EAST debut at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” on Saturday afternoon, welcoming the Blue Demons of DePaul to Madison Square Garden.

Tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. on 970 AM WNYM and FSN, which will be available locally on YES Network. Pat O’Keefe and Tarik Turner will handle the television broadcasting duties while John Minko and Brandon Tierney will narrate the action over the airwaves. The Red Storm Sports Network from Learfield IMG College broadcast can also be heard on TuneIn and Sirius XM.

Tickets for the game, the first of six regular season BIG EAST games for the Red Storm at Madison Square Garden, are available by calling 1-888-GO-STORM or visiting RedStormTix.com.

St. John’s (11-5, 0-3 BIG EAST) will look to snap a three-game skid to start conference play when it hosts DePaul (12-3, 0-2 BIG EAST). Both the Red Storm and the Blue Demons turned heads on a national level during non-conference play, as the teams that were picked to finish at the bottom of the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches poll combined to go 23-3 with seven wins over high major opposition.

After Mike Anderson won 11 games during non-league play, including a victory over previously undefeated West Virginia at MSG and a neutral site triumph over nationally ranked Arizona, the Red Storm has hit a series of bumps in the road to begin league play. After nearly completing a comeback for the ages against then-No. 11 Butler on New Year’s Eve, the Johnnies dropped both ends of a two-game road swing, falling short at Xavier and Georgetown in the past week. A commonality in the losses for St. John’s was an inability to convert at a high rate from the field, as the Johnnies have shot no better than 35.3 percent from the floor in any one conference game.

While the offense may be struggling at the start of conference play, the Red Storm’s defensive intensity has carried over with ease. In league action, the Johnnies are forcing opponents into 19.3 turnovers per game, 13.3 steals of which result from Red Storm steals. On the season, St. John’s currently ranks fourth nationally with 10.6 thefts per game and sports the nation’s fifth-best average turnover margin (+5.8). In 17 seasons as a head coach prior to taking over at St. John’s, Anderson saw his teams lead the nation in steals four times and finish inside the top 30 nationally on 14 separate occasions.

Two members of the Red Storm reached double figures in Wednesday’s loss to Georgetown, as LJ Figueroa netted 23 points and Rasheem Dunn added a season-high 18 points. The effort marked Figueroa’s fourth 20-plus point game of the season and the 10th such outing of his career. Dunn, who scored his 1,000th collegiate point against the Hoyas, also registered a season-high nine boards in addition to four assists and four steals, both of which were team highs. Marcellus Earlington chipped in eight points, six boards and a pair of steals.

DePaul will play its first game in a week, having last taken the court in a one-point loss to Providence on Jan. 4. All three of the DePaul’s losses this season have come at home, as the Blue Demons fell to Seton Hall to kick off BIG EAST play on Dec. 30 and suffered their lone loss of non-league action against Buffalo. DePaul owns road victories this season over Iowa, Boston College, Minnesota and Cleveland State.

The Blue Demons are led offensively by Paul Reed, a double-double machine who is averaging 16.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per outing. The junior forward from Orlando, Fla., has 11 double-doubles in 15 opportunities this season, a total that ranks third in all of Division I.

Charlie Moore, a first-year Blue Demon who transferred from Kansas before the start of the season, is averaging 15.9 points per game. The Chicago native, who played his freshman year at the University of California, also leads the BIG EAST and ranks 16th nationally with 6.4 assists per outing.

St. John’s and DePaul met three times in 2018-19, as the Blue Demons swept the regular season before the Red Storm finally got the upper hand in the opening game of the BIG EAST Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The Johnnies have won 15 of the last 21 meetings between the two teams, but DePaul has taken three of the last five dating back to the 2017-18 season.

St. John’s leads the overall series history, 24-20.

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