Behind the squad’s best three-point shooting performance of the campaign, the St. John’s men’s basketball team completed a regular season sweep of DePaul, 79-66, on Saturday at Wintrust Arena.
The Red Storm (13-8, 2-6 BIG EAST) connected on a season-best 13 3-pointers and shot 40.6 percent from beyond the arc, the team’s highest success rate of conference play and third highest of the season overall.
LJ Figueroa posted one of the best single-game efforts from long range in program history, scoring a career-high 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including a 7-for-12 showing from downtown. The Lawrence, Mass., native finished just one trey shy of Avery Patterson’s single-game program record set on Nov. 10, 2006, against North Florida. Figueroa became just the seventh Johnnie in program history to connect on seven or more triples and the first to do so since Shamorie Ponds hit seven against Fordham on Dec. 8, 2016. The junior wing joined D.J. Kennedy, Anthony Mason Jr. and Daryll Hill as the only Johnnies to hit seven 3-pointers in a BIG EAST contest.
Figueroa wasn’t the only Johnnie feeling it from long distance, as Mustapha Heron hit four of his nine three-point attempts in a 20-point outing, his first since going down with a right ankle sprain against Brown on Dec. 10. The senior guard from Waterbury, Conn., also went a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe.
Rasheem Dunn scored all 13 of his points and grabbed five of his eight rebounds in the second half, a stanza that saw the Red Storm outscore DePaul, 45-32, and shoot 60.0 percent from long range.
Julian Champagnie matched a season-high with 11 boards to go along with eight points. The freshman from Brooklyn also blocked a season-best four shots in 29 minutes of action.
The Blue Demons (13-7, 1-6 BIG EAST) came out of the gate firing, making five of their first seven field goal attempts and taking a 12-8 lead at the game’s first media timeout.
Trailing 18-13 after a Charlie Moore layup with 11:38 to go, the Red Storm uncorked an 11-2 run that featured a trio of triples and some lockdown defense to move ahead 24-20 three minutes later. Figueroa knocked down two of those 3-balls while Greg Williams Jr. added a trey and a long two. On the other end, the Johnnies held DePaul without a field goal for 7:02.
The Johnnies jumped ahead by as many as six late in the half, but DePaul responded with a 9-0 run to regain the lead, 34-31, with just over a minute remaining. Figueroa drained his fifth triple on the Red Storm final possession of the period, knotting the contest at 34 after 20 minutes.
Figueroa scored 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, all three-point attempts, in the opening half.
Trailing 38-37 with just under three minutes gone in the second half, the Red Storm ripped off a 13-2 run to move ahead by 10, 50-40, with 13:27 to play. The Johnnies hit three triples on the tear, two of which came of the hand of Heron. Dunn added five points on the spurt.
Sporting their largest lead of the afternoon at that point, 55-44, following a Figueroa trey near the midway mark of the half, the Johnnies watched the Blue Demons scored nine of the game’s next 10 points and cut the Red Storm lead to three, 56-53, with 6:52 to go.
Leading by that same three-point margin a minute later, Heron got a jumper to go before Figueroa knocked down 3-pointer number seven, extending the Red Storm’s advantage back to eight, 63-55, with five minutes to play.
The Blue Demons would get no close than six the rest of the way, as St. John’s made its final eight free throw attempts to seal a 79-66 victory.
After playing five of its first eight conference games on the road, the Red Storm will now play four of their next five contests at home beginning with No. 9 Villanova on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and tickets are still available for purchase by visiting RedStormTix.com or calling 1-888-GO-STORM.
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