- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) - There’s no telling just yet if this is just a little mirage for DePaul or a sign that bigger things are finally happening for the struggling program.

All coach Oliver Purnell knows is he likes what he’s seeing at the moment.

Billy Garrett Jr. scored 21 points, and DePaul won its second straight, beating St. John’s 77-75 on Tuesday night.

The Blue Demons (10-8, 2-3) blew a seven-point lead in the second half but pulled it out in the closing minutes to come away with back-to-back Big East wins for the first time in six years.

“You have every reason to be ‘Woe is me at that point,’” Purnell said. “But you don’t see that in the faces of our guys the last several games, and hopefully, that’s a permanent thing.”

DePaul rallied from 11 down in regulation to beat Butler in double overtime last week. This time, St. John’s (9-7, 0-4) was leading by three when Garrett scored on a fastbreak layup with three minutes to go. The Red Storm’s Rysheed Jordan lost his dribble, leading to a floater by Cleveland Melvin that put DePaul ahead 76-75 with 2:19 remaining.

D’Angelo Harrison missed a 3 at the shot clock buzzer for St. John’s and Orlando Sanchez put up an airball on a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left. The Red Storm had another chance after Brandon Young had a layup blocked out of bounds and Melvin missed a jumper from the wing off the inbounds with 11 seconds remaining.

But Max Hooper missed a 3 for St. John’s. Young then hit the second free throw after missing the first for DePaul to make it 77-75 with 1.9 seconds left, and Jordan’s halfcourt heave hit the top of the backboard as time expired, preserving the win for the Blue Demons.

Garrett, a freshman, came through with another strong effort after scoring a career-high 22 against Butler.

Young finished with 19 points. Melvin scored all but three of his 16 points in the second half. Tommy Hamilton scored 13, and DePaul came away with consecutive conference wins for the first time since it beat Villanova and Providence to start Big East play in January 2008.

“It feels good,” Melvin said. “It feels good. We haven’t had two wins in the Big East for a while.”

The Blue Demons also stopped an eight-game losing streak to St. John’s.

Harrison, a game-time decision after suffering a mild concussion in the previous game against Villanova, came through with 24 points.

“I feel fine,” said Harrison, who passed several tests before getting medical clearance. “If I had any doubt, Coach (Steve) Lavin wouldn’t have played me.”

Jordan scored 16, but the Red Storm dropped their fourth straight. Their last basket was by Harrison with 4:35 remaining and their lone point after that came on a free throw by Jordan with 3:48 to play.

“When they all come consecutively - a couple turnovers, a couple open shots you miss, some point-blank shots and then a couple shots when you’re just in a hurry - then that’s where you find yourself in what feels like the desert, a scoring drought,” Lavin said.

Melvin’s dunk about five-and-a-half minutes into the second half broke a 55-55 tie. Young then stole the ball from Sir’Dominic Pointer, who threw him to the court. That resulted in a technical and two free throws by Garrett as the crowd chanted for Pointer’s ejection.

Hamilton then buried a 3-pointer to make it 62-55 with 13:37 remaining. But St. John’s chipped away at the lead, tying it at 70 on a jumper by Sanchez with 7:40 left.

Harrison then scored on a layup off a no-look pass from Sanchez and buried a pull-up jumper to make it a four-point game with 4:35 left, and it remained tight the rest of the way.

“Of course, we’re frustrated,” Harrison said. “We’re a scrappy group. We’re gonna regroup.”

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