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Julian Champagnie scores 26 to lead St. John’s past DePaul in Big East tournament opener

Julian Champagnie scores 26 to lead St. John’s past DePaul in Big East tournament opener

Julian Champagnie scored 26 points to lift St. John’s past 92-73 in the opening round of the Big East tournament Wednesday night in New York.

Stef Smith added 13 and Esahia Nyiwe had 10 for the #7-seeded Red Storm (17-14), who will face #2-seeded Villanova in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Javon Freeman-Liberty led 10th-seeded DePaul (15-16) with 17 points, while Nick Ongenda contributed 13 and David Jones chipped in with 11. Brandon Johnson also had 11.

After DePaul opened the game with a 12-2 lead, St. John’s responded with a 12-2 run to tie the game at 14. The Red Storm’s Montez Mathis hit a 3-pointer with 12:34 remaining in the first half to even the score.

Smith dropped in a 15-foot jumper, Aaron Wheeler added two free throws and Joel Soriano threw down a dunk as St. John’s led 26-17 with 8:05 left before halftime.

The Blue Demons soon managed a 7-0 spurt to cut the deficit to two, at 26-24. Champagnie came back with a dunk and a trey for a 33-24 advantage with 4:52 left in the half.

Champagnie stayed hot and guided the Red Storm to a 49-29 lead at halftime. He had 22 in the first half.

Freeman-Liberty paced DePaul with nine in the first half, but DePaul missed 9 of 10 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.

The Blue Demons had some early chances to cut into the lead in the opening minutes of the second half, but a couple of costly turnovers halted any momentum.

Dylan Addae-Wusu soon hit a tough 3-pointer and the Red Storm led 60-36 with 15:15 to go.

St. John’s continued to get to the basket with ease and held a 74-50 advantage with 9:56 to play.

Freeman-Liberty hit a pair of free throws with 5:31 left, but DePaul still trailed by 20, 81-61.

The Red Storm cruised to the win from that point.

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