There was a clear directive from Rick Pitino on Tuesday:
Let it fly.
The St. John’s coach didn’t care that the Johnnies had shot just 25 percent from 3-point range over the last six games. They weren’t taking enough.
Against DePaul, they did.
St. John’s took a season-high 40 3-pointers and made 15 of them, keying a much-needed 85-57 blowout of Big East punching bag DePaul at UBS Arena.
The 15 made 3-pointers were St. John’s most this season — it was also a Big East record for the school — after it hit 13 in a win over Utah back in November in the Charleston Classic. Daniss Jenkins, Brady Dunlap, Simeon Wilcher and Jordan Dingle all hit multiple 3-point shots as part of the barrage.
The Blue Demons, the lowest-rated power-conference school in the country according to KenPom.com, were a perfect antidote to what was ailing the Red Storm.
They had lost five of the previous six games, suffering losses to the Big East’s big three of No. 1 Connecticut, No. 7 Marquette and No. 19 Creighton.
DePaul provided a respite, an easy win before a monster two-game road trip to Marquette and Providence.
Jenkins and Dingle each had 14 points and Joel Soriano added 11 points and eight rebounds. The bench, a weakness of late, poured in 38 points — nine each from Nahiem Alleyne and Sean Conway.
On-the-bubble St. John’s crushed DePaul on the glass, outrebounding the Blue Demons by 17. It forced 19 turnovers that resulted in 26 points.
K.T. Raimey had 11 points for DePaul.
The opening 20 minutes left a lot to be desired. St. John’s settled for far too many jumpers — 20 of its 37 shots were from 3-point range — and its defense was shaky.
DePaul outscored the Johnnies in the paint, 14-6, and put together an 11-0 run late in the half after St. John’s had built a 16-point edge.
Dingle was a bright spot. He had entered the game without a made 3-pointer in his previous three contests, going 0-for-11 from distance.
The Red Storm did force 11 turnovers, leading to 16 points and held a 12-1 advantage in second-chance points, one of their strengths. B
ut they shot just 35 percent from the field overall and didn’t play with the sense of urgency that was expected in what was essentially a must-win game.
Had the Blue Demons taken care of the ball more, it would’ve been far closer at the break, as they did shoot 44 percent from the field.
The Johnnies finally created separation on the strength of an 11-2 run early in the second half after back-to-back 3-pointers from Jenkins. It forced a DePaul timeout with the Red Storm lead up to a then-game-high 19 with 12:49 remaining.
After an Alleyne 3-pointer, Jenkins scored eight consecutive points for St. John’s, taking charge after a quiet start offensively.
It opened the floodgates. Soon, the lead was 25 after consecutive 3-pointers from Dunlap. A team in need of a laugher got one.