DePaul defeats St. John's for second straight Big East win

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ROSEMONT, Ill. -- DePaul owns a Big East winning streak for the first time in six years and hopes Tuesday's 77-75 victory over St. John's is a harbinger of more success ahead.

Freshman guard Billy Garrett Jr. scored 21 points as the Blue Demons won their second straight conference game, their first back-to-back Big East wins since beating Villanova and Providence in January 2008.

"It feels great but one thing we've got to do is stay focused and try to get the next one," Garrett said. "In the Big East, you're not going to have an easy game. We won't have an easy game the rest of the season, so we've got to stay focused and build on this win."

Guard Brandon Young scored 19 points, forward Cleveland Melvin had 16 -- including 13 in the second half -- while center Tommy Hamilton IV added 16 for DePaul (10-8, 2-3).

"I told the guys before the game about making a statement win at home," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. "(But) it's too early to talk corners, it's still too early in Big East play. I think we've got to worry about the next game and not corners and what's down the line. We just want to play better. If we play better longer then we'll be happy with the results."

The loss was the fourth straight for the Red Storm (9-7, 0-4) and first in the last nine meetings with the Blue Demons.

Guard D'Angelo Harrison shook off a concussion suffered last week to lead St. John's with a game-high 24 points, guard Rysheed Jordan had 16 and forward Orlando Sanchez added 11.

The Blue Demons broke away from a 55-55 second-half tie as Melvin scored four points and Hamilton added a 3-pointer in a 9-2 run for a 64-57 lead with 12:18 left in regulation.

St. John's caught and passed DePaul after Sanchez's 3-point play gave his team a 68-67 lead with 8:28 to play. Young replied with a 3-pointer for a 70-68 DePaul edge.

But Melvin's drive and shot off his fingertips gave the Blue Demons a 76-75 lead with 2:19 showing. Sanchez missed a baseline 3-pointer with 47 seconds left and Melvin missed on a potential 3-pointer with 11 seconds showing.

"(Melvin) didn't score 30 but he hung in there when he was struggling," Purnell said. "And he was big for us coming down the stretch with a couple of defensive stops, a couple of baskets. And his performance was indicative of the entire team."

St. John's guard Max Hooper failed on a 3-point try with four seconds to play. DePaul then padded the lead with 1.9 seconds left when Young hit the second of two free throws.

Jordan's half-court shot at the buzzer missed its target.

St. John's went scoreless from the field through the final 4:35 with five missed shots.

"It was a combination,'' said St. John's coach Steve Lavin. "When they all come consecutively -- a couple of turnovers, a couple of open shots you miss and then a couple of shots when you're in a hurry -- that's where you find yourself in what feels like the desert -- in a scoring drought."

Tuesday's first half featured 10 lead changes and eight ties as the teams played to a 38-38 halftime deadlock. Hooper's 3-pointer with 34 seconds left gave the Red Storm a temporary 38-36 lead. The Blue Demons' Young replied with a driving one-handed shot to tie the game with 16 seconds showing.

Harrison suffered a concussion last Saturday against Villanova but passed a series of tests and was cleared to play early on Tuesday.

"I feel fine, if I had any doubt Coach Lavin wouldn't have played me," Harrison said. "I passed all my tests and I felt good."

St. John's hosts Providence on Thursday while DePaul travels to No. 6 Villanova on Saturday.

NOTES: St. John's entered the game last in the Big East in scoring (62.3 points) and field-goal percentage (34.7 percent) per game but had a Top 10 scorer in G D'Angelo Harrison, averaging 15.7 points in league play. ... St. John's left Allstate Arena still winless outside New York City (the Red Storm had road wins in Brooklyn and at Columbia University). ... DePaul F Cleveland Melvin landed on the Big East honor roll this week after averaging 23 points and seven rounds over two games. He had a career-high six blocks on Tuesday. ... Young passed Dallas Comegys for eighth on DePaul's all-time list and now has 1,626 points. ... The Blue Demons improved to 2-0 in overtime games this season with last Thursday's 99-94 double-overtime win at Butler. ... St. John's still holds a 17-15 advantage in the series.

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