(Shamorie Ponds drives the lane – @StJohnsBball)
St. John’s star point guard Shamorie Ponds put together one of his signature performances on Saturday afternoon against Georgetown, as they prevailed in overtime, 97-94.
Ponds had 37 points on 11-21 from the field, with six three-pointers, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds, the latest big outing from the Big East Preseason Player of the Year.
Ponds has now scored 30+ points four times this season, the 10th of his career hitting that mark.The Brooklyn native has scored 30-plus in a true road game twice in his career, both at Capital One Arena. The junior guard cracked the 1,500-point mark in his St. John’s career, becoming just the 14th player in program history to hit that total. Ponds (1,526) also vaulted past D.J. Kennedy (1,513) into 13th place on the Red Storm’s all-time scoring list.
This was the Red Storm’s first win in Washington, DC, since January 18, 2003. The Johnnies had lost 13-straight against the Hoyas in Washington since that last victory, which featured 34 points from Marcus Hatten.
St. John’s is now 14-1 overall (2-1 in Big East Conference play), their best start since 1985-86, and the win also came on legendary coach Lou Carnesecca’s birthday.
“It was nice,” St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin, who played for Carnesecca said of the big day. “I talked to [Coach Carnesecca] before the game and that’s all he wanted, to win against Georgetown, so I’m glad that happened for him. I think there’s tremendous excitement, optimism, and a good feeling. I think it’s great that our fanbase has watched us throughout. They watched us struggle, improve, and now watch them have success. It’s a genuine and authentic way to go about it.”
St. John’s trailed 22-11 halfway through the first half, and the rebounded to take a 42-39 lead into halftime.
Georgetown came out firing in the second half, opening up an eight-point lead, 63-55, at the 10:45 mark on a Greg Malinowski three-pointer. St. John’s came back to take a 74-73 lead with 5:03 left on a Justin Simon jumper.
Georgetown took a 5-point lead, 82-77, with 1:40 left on a Jagan Mosely layup.
St. John’s still trailed by four, at 85-81, with only 17 seconds left to play. Ponds nailed a pair of free throws at the 14-second mark before LJ Figueroa came up with a steal on the ensuing defensive possession. The former junior college All-American was then fouled with nine seconds left and he hit two free throws of his own to knot the score at 85. St. John’s held off Georgetown on the final possession to force overtime.
“I forget who was next to me but we had a great trap and he lost the ball and it ended up in our favor,” Figueroa said of the steal.
Mullin said of Figueroa’s steal, “Similar to Shamorie [Ponds], LJ has great instincts on offense and defense. He plays to his own rhythm at times. Defensively, he has great length and he’s got a knack of making plays instinctively.”
The Red Storm took that momentum into the extra session, as Justin Simon got a steal on Georgetown’s opening possession, then finding LJ Figueroa on an alley-oop for a dunk. On their next possesion, Figueroa returned the favor as he also set up Simon an an alley-oop.
That was the start of a 9-1 run for St. John’s, which was capped by a Ponds layup a the 2:54 mark that made it 94-86.
“[Georgetown] gave us a chance and we capitalized,” Ponds said of the fast offensive start in overtime.
Georgetown wasn’t done yet, as they pulled to within two, at 96-94, with 24 seconds left, but Ponds then went to the free throw line and drained a free throw to seal the 97-94 win.
Mullin said of his team’s defensive effort leading the team to victory, “Overall, we were sporadic defensively. We started the game really loose offensively and defensively. We closed the first half well. In the second half, I think we started out too loose and lackadaisical, but as the game grew on, we played a little bit better on defense. Shamorie [Ponds’] steal obviously was big. He’s has great instincts. In overtime we probably played our best basketball. Georgetown played a great game. It was a heck of a game.”
In addition to the 37 points from Ponds, four other St. John’s players scored in double figures.
Simon had 14 points on 7-11 from the field, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. Mustapha Heron had 12 points (5-11 FG, 1-5 three-pointers), 3 rebounds, and an assist. Figueroa had 11 points (4-8 FG), 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. Marvin Clark II had 11 points (4-10 FG, 3-8 threes), 3 rebounds, and 2 steals.
Clark II, Heron, and Simon fouled out late, but they still held on for the big win, and Figueroa said of that, “We’re one team. One guy goes down, another guy has to come in and step up. We just pick each other up. We all put the confidence in each other to make sure we can make those big time plays down the stretch, no matter who has the ball in their hands.”
Ponds said of the character of this year’s team, “We have a next man up mentality. If one of our brothers goes down, it means that one of our other brothers has to step up. Everybody stepped up big. [Bryan Trimble Jr.], Greg [Williams Jr.], and Sedee [Keita]. We got contributions from everybody who stepped on the court off the bench. It was a great collective win.”
St. John’s stays on the road, and faces another big test as they take on defending National Champion Villanova Tuesday night.
“We’re coming in with a mindset that we have had all season of just go 1-0 every game,” Simon said of the battle in Philadelphia. “Focus on the game and finish the task at hand. It’s going to be a great environment. We beat [Villanova] last year and we’re expecting the crowd to be crazy. Those guys are ready to play and are going to bring it.”