Sunday, March 3, 2019

Green's five takeaways from DePaul's 92-83 win over St. John's

Photo Credit: Geno Green- College Sports Overload

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

Max Strus put his own spin on the term Sunday Funday with a career-high 43 points on senior day as the DePaul Blue Demons (14-13, 6-10 Big East) completed the regular-season sweep of the St. John’s Red Storm (20-10, 8-9 Big East), 92-83. Strus’ performance highlights my five takeaways from Wintrust Arena.

1) Unstoppable Strus:

While Strus has enjoyed success with his crisp perimeter shooting that has garnered NBA scouts’ attention, Sunday’s game showcased a little bit of everything for the senior guard.

Strus showed off his ballhandling skills with a crossover on Marvin Clark II, which led to an off-balance jumper to put DePaul ahead for good at 78-76 with 3:53 left in regulation. The dazzling play highlighted a 43-point effort on 14-of-22 from the field, with Chicago Bulls’ General Manager Gar Forman and Vice President John Paxson in attendance.

Six of Strus’s field goal makes came on three-pointers and DePaul coach Dave Leitao noticed a different swagger in the second half as the senior got into a precise rhythm.

“A lot of times when Max comes off those screens, he doesn’t automatically shoot it because there are other things he can do,” Leitao said. “When he took a shot off a baseline screen today, it was flush as he had his body underneath with him with good body language.”

2) Olujobi’s under the radar double-double:

On most days, Femi Olujobi’s third double-double of the season with 23 points and 10 rebounds would be the headline, but Strus’ effort overshadowed the senior’s performance.

Olujobi enjoyed success in the first meeting against St. John’s with 27 points. Sunday’s game proved to be more of the same as he used his space to carve up the Red Storm defense.

“The shots he made off the block were real good and we have to do a better job in those situations,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “[Femi] also made some nice moves off the post and is a good player.”

3) Free-throw discrepancy:

The Blue Demons managed to get the Red Storm into foul trouble for the majority of the first half as they made 18-of-22 free throws, which kept them within distance at 42-33 as which countered a subpar 8-of-19 from the field.

DePaul’s 32 makes on 42 free throw attempts proved to be the difference compared to St. John’s 18-for-28.

“I think more often than not, the team that is the most aggressive gets most of the calls,” Leitao said. You throw the first punch and it earns you some whistles and I think our ability to remain vigilant and stay aggressive got us to the line a lot.”

4) Ponds being Ponds:

Despite being a non-factor for most of the first half, Ponds caught fire in the final 2:28 of the first half, which carried over to the second half in a stretch where he scored 17 of St. John’s 19 points. 

Ponds finished with a team-high 29, on 8-of-15 from the field, but foul trouble from multiple rotation players forced to sophomore to shoulder most of the offensive load for St. John’s.

5) The Johnnies’ foul woes:

The Red Storm found themselves running foul after foul in the first half, which haunted them late in the second half as Clark II, Greg Williams Jr, Mustapha Heron and Justin Simon fouled out. Once all of the damage was done, St. John’s finished with a season-high 34 team fouls and allowed DePaul to go into the bonus before the halfway mark of both halves. 

Mullin kept the reasoning simple for the multitude of errors.

“You might want to ask someone else besides me,” Mullin said.

With the highs of defeating ranked conference foes in Marquette twice and Villanova, to the lows of playing a soft non-conference schedule and questionable losses in Big East play, the Red Storm are at a crossroads and need a win at Xavier on March 9 and a good showing in the conference tournament to keep its hopes at making the field of 68 realistic.

March is where moments are made, but can also be dashed at a moment’s notice.