Queens, NY – In a competitive matchup from start to finish, the DePaul Blue Demons (105, 2-2) came away with an impressive 79-71 road victory against the St. John’s Red Storm. The maturity of DePaul’s lineup was evident as they entered the tough road atmosphere at Carnesecca Arena and were able to maintain a tight lead throughout the game. The key statistical difference maker in this game came down to rebounding as DePaul was able to save far more possessions with 14 offensive rebounds to St. John’s six. In addition to the rebound disparity, star power was lacking for the Red Storm as their leading scorer and star point guard, Shamorie Ponds, was out with a lower back strain.
The size and strength of senior forward Femi Olujobi was too much to handle for the Red Storm as he scored 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting and collected eight rebounds. With a polished offensive game that includes post moves and a smooth mid-range jump shot, Olujobi provided consistent offensive production to lead his team. Fellow senior Eli Cain also had a productive scoring night with 14 points of his own. Cain is a tall, versatile guard at 6’6’’ that can handle the ball with poise and run point guard duties. With a reliable jump shot, length and point guard ability, he is a challenging player to defend.
With the absence of Ponds, St. John’s (14-3, 2-3) needed players to step up and take on enhanced scoring responsibilities. Sophomore LJ Figueroa embraced this challenge and led his team with 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting (3-of-5 from deep). Figueroa has been impressive this year and is looking more and more comfortable as a go-to scorer in their offense. He’s got solid athleticism and shooting ability on a 6’6’’ frame. The sky is really the limit for him as he has so much room for growth and is already a very solid college player. Mustapha Heron had a quiet night with only 11 points and three rebounds. He remains a core leader for St. John’s as he adds an edge to the team’s persona with his competitive energy.
All in all, DePaul’s balanced attack was too much for St. John’s to handle with Ponds unavailable. It was clear that his playmaking was sorely missed as they struggled to get scores when they needed it most. Here in the midst of the season, it’s unclear which path St. John’s will take the rest of the season. They will certainly need a healthy Shamorie Ponds to ensure they reach their potential.