Some quick thoughts on St. John's 77-75 loss to DePaul on Tuesday at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.:
What it means: Steve Lavin can't use the schedule excuse anymore.
St. John's dropped its first three Big East games, at Georgetown and at Xavier (two tough places to play) and at home to Villanova, which was ranked in the top 10 in the country. On Tuesday night, however, St. John's lost to a team predicted to finish dead last in the Big East -- a team the Red Storm had beaten eight times in a row.
As we reach the middle of January, it's fair to say this St. John's team has been a huge disappointment. The Red Storm are now 9-7 overall and 0-4 in conference play.
DePaul improves to 10-8 overall, 2-3 in the conference. It's the first time in six years DePaul has won back-to-back Big East games.
The turning point: Neither team led by more than six points in a tight first half that featured eight ties and 10 lead changes. Rysheed Jordan scored 10 first-half points for St. John's, but DePaul had the advantage on the glass and at the foul line. The score was tied at 38 at intermission.
The second half was tight as well. DePaul took the largest lead of the game, 62-55, on a Tommy Hamilton IV 3-pointer with 13 minutes and change remaining. St. John's did not fold -- in fact, the Red Storm took a 74-70 lead on a D'Angelo Harrison jumper with 4:35 left. But that would be St. John's last field goal of the game.
With 47 seconds left, trailing 76-75, Orlando Sanchez's 3-point attempt sailed way off the mark. In the final 11 seconds, with the score still 76-75 after DePaul's Cleveland Melvin missed a long jumper, Max Hooper missed a decent look from beyond the arc. And after DePaul's Brandon Young made 1 of 2 free throws with 1.9 seconds left, Jordan's half-court heave at the buzzer was off, too.
Star watch: Harrison, who was a game-time decision after suffering a mild concussion last Saturday against Villanova, started and scored a game-high 24 points. In the process, he passed Mark Jackson for 23rd on St. John's all-time scoring list. Jordan finished with 16, and Sanchez chipped in 11.
In the final few minutes, Lavin kept Hooper and fellow reserve God'sgift Achiuwa in the game along with Harrison, Jordan and Sanchez. Second-leading scorer Jakarr Sampson rode the pine, along with Sir'Dominic Pointer, Phil Greene IV, Jamal Branch and Chris Obekpa. Hooper and Achiuwa contributed little, scoring just five points between them.
Freshman guard Billy Garrett Jr. scored a team-high 21 points for DePaul. Young added 19, and Melvin chipped in 16.
Number crunch: St. John's outshot DePaul, 47.5 percent (28-for-59) to 40.3 percent (25-for-62). But the Blue Demons were 21-for-25 from the foul line, while the Red Storm were just 12-for-15. DePaul had a 17-10 edge on the offensive glass.
The Red Storm made their first seven 3-point attempts of the game but missed their final seven.
What's next: St. John's hosts Providence on Thursday night at Carnesecca Arena. DePaul plays at No. 6 Villanova on Saturday afternoon.