Feb. 17, 2016
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QUEENS, N.Y. - St. John's had four players score double-figures as the Red Storm led by as many as 20 points in an eventual 80-65 victory over DePaul before a near sellout crowd Wednesday at Carnesecca Arena. Durand Johnson (Baltimore, Md.) led the way with 18 points and Federico Mussini (Reggio Emilia, Italy) scored all of his 17 points in the second half to help St. John's come away with its first BIG EAST win.
Red Storm freshman Kassoum Yakwe (Bamako, Mali) recorded his first-career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds to go with four blocks. Malik Ellison (Voorhees, N.J.) chipped in 11 points and matched Johnson with four assists.
"I'm happy for the guys in the locker room," said St. John's Head Coach Chris Mullin. "They worked really hard. They're approach and attitude each and every day has been really impressive."
St. John's (8-19, 1-13) shot 56.5 percent in the second half to open the largest lead of the season. Mussini and Johnson combined for 29 of the squad's 49 second half points and buried 16-of-17 free-throw attempts in the stanza.
"We were playing good in the first half, but we knew we had to play with more energy, especially since we didn't start really good [in the second half]," said Mussini. "I came off the bench and tried to provide some energy."
Eli Cain finished with a game-high 25 points to lead DePaul (8-17, 2-11), while Billy Garrett added 14 points. The Blue Demons shot just 36.1 percent (22-of-61) from the floor and 21.1 percent (4-of-19) from long range.
St. John's led by seven at the break, but DePaul opened the second half on an 8-0 run and took a 32-31 advantage with 18:04 to play. Felix Balamou's (Conakry, Guinea) layup put the Red Storm back on top before Mussini was fouled on a 3 and converted all three free throws. Christian Jones (Arlington, Texas) topped off a 9-2 run with another layup as the Red Storm went up 40-34.
Yankuba Sima (Girona, Spain) threw down a two-handed slam at the 12:38 mark to go up 10 and St. John's maintained a comfortable lead the rest of the way. The Red Storm's lead grew as large as 64-44 with six minutes to play as Johnson keyed an 8-0 run with his second 3-pointer of the game.
"It's the first step. We finally got a win under our belt," said Johnson. "It feels good to be on the winning side for a change. We have to keep coming everyday and keep building off of it."
Amar Alibegovic (Rome, Italy) got St. John's off to a quick start scoring five of the team's first seven points. The sophomore forward's 3-pointer and putback slam sent the Red Storm out to an early lead.
Midway through the half, Ellison drained a pair of 3s bookending a 10-2 run to help send the Red Storm out front 26-19. Johnson extended the lead to nine and St. John's went to the locker room with a 31-24 lead.
"Overall, everyone contributed at different times tonight," said Mullin. "I thought we got off to a good start and played a good first half."
The Red Storm dominated the glass with a 49-33 rebounding advantage. Sima contributed nine boards, going with six points and three blocks in 18 minutes off the bench. Balamou added nine points, dished out a game-high five assists and had three steals.
St. John's returns to action on Sunday, Feb. 21, hosting Seton Hall for a noon game at Madison Square Garden (FS1).