By Laura Amato
Malik Ellison grabbed the ball, sprinted up the court and slammed it down with a gusto he’s been waiting for all season.
The St. John’s sophomore guard had a career night Monday, racking up a game-high 23 points as the Red Storm grabbed a 78-68 victory over DePaul at Carnesecca Arena. The win snapped a four-game skid and wrapped up an early-season sweep of the Blue Devils.
“I’ve got to credit my teammates, they found me, and I got a lot of open looks,” Ellison said. “I just knocked it down.”
The Red Storm grabbed a bit of a cushion late in the first half, wrapping up the period on an 11-point run and keeping DePaul off the board for the final 4:51.
Ellison was a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball – continuing his strong defense play – but it was his ability to sink shots from just about anywhere that helped the Red Storm pick up a much-needed victory on their home court. He connected on a pair of early three-pointers, jumpstarting St. John’s in a game where the squad’s usual shooting-stars weren’t able to hit their early marks.
Marcus LoVett was held to just two points, shutout completely in the first half, while Shamorie Ponds didn’t hit his stride until the game’s waning minutes, scoring 11 of his 14 in the second half.
“I thought our bench did a really good job,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “Malik shot the ball exceptionally well, but I think four or five of those three-points were created by his teammates and that’s what we always try to stress, trying to shoot those off dribble penetrations, double teams or in transition.”
St. John’s was able to set the tempo throughout much of the Big East tilt – something the squad had been sorely lacking in the last few weeks — and the Red Storm fed off the sell-out, on-campus crowd in the last game at Carnesecca this season.
“There’s a lot of history here,” said Tariq Owens, who finished with ten points and nine rebounds. “It’s small and it gets rowdy when you can really get the fans into it.”
By the final whistle, the Red Storm forced 16 turnovers and grabbed 20 points on fast break plays – including Ellison’s slam with just over a minute left on the clock.
“We really needed this one,” Ellison said. “Coach has been preaching all season, but especially this week, that we needed to come in, last game at Carnesecca, and bring that energy and fight. That’s what we did today.”
The victory was important, a big-time confidence boost for a St. John’s squad that had been floundering recently, but it’s not a complete fix-it. There’s still a “one day at a time” mantra for the Red Storm as the squad looks to find consistency in a league that challenges them every time they step onto court.
“Winning is always a better feeling, there’s no question about that. You just don’t get wins for nothing,” Mullin said. “I’ve been very clear with these guys since day one – don’t disrespect what it takes to become a winner.”