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January 31, 2012
St. John's Red Storm (9-12, 3-6 Big East, 1-6 Away)
at DePaul Blue Demons (11-9, 2-6 Big East, 6-5 Home)
When: Wednesday Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. Central time
Where: Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.
TV: The U Too (Big East Network)
Online Streaming: ESPN3.com
Radio: WSCR AM 670
No. 12 Sophomore Forward Cleveland Melvin (6-foot-8, 205 pounds)
31.3 MPG, 17.8 PPG, 44.2 FG%, 6.2 RPG, 1.1 BPG
No. 20 Sophomore Guard Brandon Young (6-foot-3, 193 pounds)
30.5 MPG, 16 PPG, 44.4 FG%, 4.6 APG, 1.6 SPG
No. 21 Freshman Wing Jamee Crockett (6-foot-4, 202 pounds)
14.2 MPG, 6.9 PPG, 46 FG%, 40 3FG%
No. 4 Freshman Wing Maurice Harkless (6-foot-8, 208 pounds)
35.7 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 47.4 FG%, 8.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG
No. 11 Freshman Guard D'Angelo Harrison (6-foot-3, 202 pounds)
34 MPG, 15.7 PPG, 38.1 FG%, 33.9 3FG%, 1.6 SPG
No. 3 Junior Forward God'sgift Achiuwa (6-foot-8, 236 pounds
33.4 MPG, 10.2 PPG, 52.8 FG%, 6.3 RPG
Last Wednesday's comeback road victory over Rutgers could be looked at as the biggest win of the season for DePaul when looking back at this season.
DePaul entered that game on a five-game losing streak and had several fans and media alike referencing the past three seasons where DePaul lost frequently and badly in conference play. Apparently this DePaul squad did not get the memo.
DePaul battled back from an 11-point second half deficit to win thanks in large part to a breakthrough effort by freshman Jamee Crockett. In the deciding second half, Crockett scored 17 of his career-high 20 points and made 5 three-point baskets.
An improved defensive effort as a team also earned DePaul the victory. For the final 10:21 of the game, Rutgers was held to 14 points and 40 percent shooting for the whole half.
On offense DePaul did a solid job of sharing the ball and finding openings as the game went along. On 24 made field goals, DePaul registered 19 assists. Brandon Young led the team with 7 assists, which included the big assist to a wide-open Cleveland Melvin under the basket for a dunk to break a 62-62 tie.
After making the NCAA tournament last season with 10 seniors under first year head coach Steve Lavin, it was clear that this season was going to be a year of transition for the program. That transition has been more difficult with personnel losses and health issues with Lavin.
The St. John's bench has not featured Lavin on it since November as he has been recuperating from prostate cancer surgery. It appears to be a long-shot to see him coaching again this season.
Their highly rated recruiting class took a hit with three prospects being declared ineligible before the season: Amir Garrett, Jakarr Sampson and Norvel Pelle. Garrett has since been declared eligible and has suited up in 11 games so far for the team.
St. John's has struggled of late, dropping 7 out of 9 contests. The most recent loss was a non-conference game in their annual matchup with Duke. St. John's allowed a deeper Duke team to attempt 42 free throws compared to 21 by St. John's.
Freshman wing Maurice Harkless continued his strong season with his second highest scoring output of the season with 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Fellow freshman D'Angelo Harrison registered 21 points.
Three Keys to a DePaul Victory
1. More Crockett
DePaul has had its share of inconsistency with the two wing spots. The cure may be simple-more Crockett.
It seemed inevitable that a game such as last Wednesday's would happen for Crockett as a result of the way he had been playing with more minutes. He has only played 20 minutes or more seven times this season, but has scored in double-figures in five of those games and shown off his improving game.
Coming out of high school it was common to see high athletic ability and great hustle attached to Crockett's scouting report. Strong shooting often was not, but is definitely something Crockett has continued to work on since before his senior season.
He has shot 40 percent from three-point range on the season. There appears to be little hesitation when he gets the opportunity to take those shots. The confidence is definitely building.
DePaul has had so much inconsistency at the wing spots-especially with the shooting guard spot. Crockett's play of late has likely earned him more minutes at the two spot and possibly a starter's role for the time being.
2. Turn up the heat on defense
DePaul got aggressive on defense in the win against Rutgers. It is important for that style to continue in this game.
St. John's has some real talented players on their roster. The issue for them is youth and depth, two areas that DePaul can exploit on Wednesday.
St. John's typically runs a rotation of 7-8 players. Six active players on the roster average 21 minutes or more, and junior guard Malik Stith averages just over 15 minutes per game.
What has really hurt St. John's is their lack of a true, experienced point guard. The closest player that could possibly handle that role is freshman and native of Chicago Phil Greene. He will certainly be put to the test against the pressing defense that DePaul uses.
DePaul can use an aggressive press and halfcourt defense to throw a young roster off of what they want to do on offense. DePaul could also change up their press and their defense to give different looks and not allow St. John's any comfort in game-planning for a specific defense they will see.
A zone defense at times may be ideal for DePaul as well. St. John's ranks 344th entering games Tuesday in three-point field goal percentage. While DePaul does not tend to go zone much it may be a perfect time to run more of it at various points of the game Wednesday.
3. Attack the boards
Neither of these teams should be proud of their rebounding numbers this season. Both of them rank near the bottom of the Big East and the nation in that category.
DePaul did show some improvement in the Rutgers game by evening up the rebound battle at 33-33. This game gives them a chance to really attack the offensive glass and get second chance opportunities.
St. John's has players that are long and athletic, but does not possess a lot of size. Harkless is a good all-around player and leads the team with 8.8 rebounds per game. Junior forward God's Gift Achiuwa could very well give DePaul issues inside, though.
If DePaul's frontcourt could get an edge on Harkless and Achiuwa, they have a shot at gaining a rare advantage on the boards. That means fewer opportunities for a mediocre shooting team like St. John's to get second chances, and more chances for DePaul to get the transition game going.