NEW YORK — Doug Bruno and his DePaul Blue Demons were sitting at the airport watching the final seconds of Creighton's game against Marquette on their phones.
When the final buzzer sounded Saturday and Creighton lost, the team let out a big cheer having clinched the Big East regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament next weekend.
It's the first championship for the school since 2004-05 when DePaul was champions of Conference USA.
"I'm really proud of our team, our staff, and am proud of the players for having the resiliency to fight back from a 2-2 start in the league," Bruno said.
A few hours earlier, Brittany Hrynko scored 21 points and had nine assists to help DePaul beat St. John's 80-65 on Saturday.
The Blue Demons (23-6, 14-3 Big East) were the preseason conference favorite and have won 12 of their last 13 games. The lone loss in that span was at Marquette on Feb. 18.
Those same Golden Eagles helped DePaul clinch the title.
"Thank you Marquette," Bruno said.
DePaul closes out the regular season against Georgetown on Tuesday.
The Blue Demons are the first team in the current conference configuration to win the regular season title since Georgetown shared it in 1997. Connecticut, Notre Dame and Rutgers have won every one since.
It's been a roller-coaster season for the Red Storm (19-9, 12-5). They started out 5-1 before hitting a low when they were swept in their own tournament in the middle of December. Second-year coach Joe Tartamella seemed to right the ship when St. John's rattled off 11 straight victories after a loss to Xavier, which saw the Red Storm have a 14-hour bus trip to Ohio because of a winter storm.
That streak put St. John's in control of the conference, but the Red Storm have lost their last four games — including blowing a 23-point lead to Marquette on Wednesday and now Saturday's loss. They are trying to hold on to a top four seed in the conference.
"We've hit a bit of a snag right now but we still control our own destiny," Tartamella said. "We've had a rough last week or so and have one more game left against Providence before regrouping for the Big East tournament."
The game was tied at 20 midway through the first half before DePaul went on a 13-3 run with Jessica January scoring five points during the spurt. Her 3-pointer made it 33-23 with 4:59 left in the first half. The Blue Demons led 43-36 at the break.
St. John's scored four points to start the second half and trailed 43-40, but could get no closer as DePaul scored the next eight points. The Red Storm only got within nine the rest of the way.
Aliyyah Handford scored 14 points and Amber Thompson added 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Red Storm.
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