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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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