By Josh Adams

New York- The third time was the charm for St. John’s on Wednesday night before a packed house at Madison Square Garden. On their third try of the season, they defeated the DePaul Blue Demons, 82-74 and advanced to the quarterfinal round on Thursday.

The Red Storm came into the Big East Tournament as the #7 seed and looking to solidify what became a precarious NCAA Tournament resume. A win tonight all but assures them a spot in the NCAA field while a loss would’ve made it very interesting on Selection Sunday whether the Red Storm would hear their name called for the bracket.

At their best, St. John’s distributes the scoring load among their starting five and lets Big East Defensive Player of the Year Justin Simon attach himself to the hip to the opposition’s best player. That’s exactly what happened tonight as the Red Storm held DePaul’s Max Strus to 14 points (he scored 43 in the previous matchup) and the Red Storm had all five starters score double figures in the win. Simon, Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron all scored 18 for the Red Storm (21-11) in the win.

Eli Cain scored 23 for DePaul (15-15) in the loss.

St. John’s was eager to get a fresh start in the postseason and Ponds told the press, “We were looking forward to tonight’s game.”, He added, “But we packed for four days.”

The mission now for the Red Storm is to defeat the #2 seed Marquette team that they have beaten twice this year. As proven tonight with DePaul, it’s tough to defeat a team three times in a season but the Red Storm look like they have their swagger back. The Thursday night quarterfinal that features Marquette & St. John’s in the first game and Georgetown vs. Seton Hall in the nightcap should provide an electric atmosphere at the Garden. Ponds seemed confident about tomorrow’s game. “We just have to have the same game-plan we had when we beat them at home and when we beat them at their home.” said Ponds about Marquette. “I’m looking forward to it.”

So will 19,000 Big East fans as the spotlight shines bright on a Markus Howard vs Shamorie Ponds match-up. Good things come in threes too.

PHOTO: Justin Simon/gettyimages