ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) -D.J. Kennedy endured a horrific first half but, after a second-half scoring spree, helped St. John's escape DePaul with a triple-overtime victory Friday night.
Kennedy helped the Red Storm overcome a 20-point first-half deficit with a career-high 32 points and Malik Boothe scored six points in the third overtime as St. John's defeated DePaul 90-82.
Anthony Mason Jr. made a 3-pointer to start the third overtime and Boothe later hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Red Storm an 83-80 lead. St. John's (16-14, 6-12 Big East) finally pulled away when Kennedy connected with a Mason for an alley-oop dunk and an 87-82 lead with 37.2 seconds left.
Paris Horne finished with 20 points and Mason 14 for St. John's in its regular-season finale.
Kennedy, who scored only four points in the first half, heard an intense halftime speech from coach Norm Roberts.
``We already knew we put ourselves in a hole,' Kennedy said. ``In the first half, we played our worst basketball we played all year. We already knew we didn't want to go out like that on the last game of the season.'
Mac Koshwal scored 23 points and Mike Stovall 19 for DePaul (8-22, 1-16), which has won only one Big East regular-season game in two year. DePaul's lone win came Jan. 20 against Marquette.
``Sometimes when we get a big lead we get lackadaisical,' said DePaul's Will Walker, who scored 10 points. ``Coach (Tracy Webster) keeps on stressing to keep on attacking and stretch that lead, but it seems like we never do. It seems like we get in a shell and play not to lose instead of to win.'
DePaul trailed 75-70 with 4:24 left in the second overtime but came back. Will Walker made a 3-pointer, and Kennedy answered with a basket, but Koshwal scored for DePaul. Then with 53.8 seconds left, Jeremiah Kelly drove past the St. John's defense for a layup to tie the game. Kelly had a chance to win the game but missed a 3-pointer as time expired.
Mario Stula made a 3-pointer for the Blue Demons with 11 seconds left in the first overtime to cut the Red Storm lead to 69-68. DePaul then put Kennedy on the line, and he split two shots.
Kelly then dribbled the length of the court and converted a layup just before time expired in the first overtime to send the game to a second overtime.
Horne's basket gave St. John's its first lead of the game at 62-60 with 1:58 left in the first overtime. Kennedy made a 3-pointer and then added a free throw to extend St. John's lead to 66-60 with 39.5 seconds left. Kennedy made two more free throws to put the Red Storm up 68-63 with 26.8 seconds left.
The Red Storm trailed 52-40 with 8:43 left in regulation. But Kennedy, who scored 15 points in the second half, made a 3-pointer, and Horne followed with another to get the Red Storm within 56-54 with 2:43 left.
``We fought too hard all year to go out on a night like this in the last game of the season going into the Big East (tournament),' Kennedy said. ``Come second half, I gave it all I had.'
Coming out of an inbounds play with 7.2 seconds left, Kennedy drove to the basket and found Justin Burrell for a dunk to tie it 56-56 with 2 seconds left. Walker's wild half-court shot was blocked as time expired.
``By far the most exciting game I've ever been part of in my life coaching, especially as a head coach,' Roberts said. ``Never been more proud of my team and how focused they came out (in the second half). They really played with an unbelievable sense of pride.'
It has been a struggle for DePaul, which fired coach Jerry Wainwright on Jan. 11 and replaced him on an interim basis with Webster.
``It was a fun game,' Webster said. ``I wished we could've got the 'W.' Hopefully we're getting closer and closer. Will said it: We tend to play not lose.'
The Red Storm went 9:13 without a field goal in the first half. During that span DePaul outscored St. John's 15-1. Koshwal connected on a full-court pass to Walker, Stovall made a 3-pointer and Walker had a put-back to give DePaul a 30-10 lead.
It was a brutal first half for St. John's, which shot 28.6 percent from the floor, went 3-for-9 from the free throw line and committed nine turnovers.
``I think as a team we just weren't there mentally,' Kennedy said. ``We were out of it from the start.'
Earlier in the season, St. John's beat DePaul 67-47 at Carnesecca Arena.
St. John's played without second-leading scorer Dwight Hardy, who sprained his left knee in Tuesday's loss to Syracuse.
The Associated Press News Service
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