St. John’s Stuns Marquette

(Shamorie Ponds going for the game-winning layup – @StJohnsBBall)

The St. John’s Red Storm stunned Marquette, the 10th-ranked team in the nation, 70-69, on Tuesday night, giving them two big victories on this three-game road trip.

This brings the Red Storm’s Big East record back to .500 at 5-5, as they return to Madison Square Garden on Saturday at noon for a matchup with Providence. They then host Butler at Carnesecca Arena on Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m., and then face defending national champion Villanova on Sunday, February 17 at 5:00 p.m. at The Garden.

This was the second time St. John’s has beaten Marquette this season, as they beat them soundly on New Year’s Day at The Lou and handed them their first loss at Fiserv Forum.

Shamorie Ponds led the way with 28 points, and he had the game-winner on a layup with 20 seconds left. Ponds shot 9-19 from the field, including 1-5 o three-pointers, with 7 rebounds and 2 assists.

St. John’s led this one throughout, and went up by as many as 15 points when Ponds made a layup to make it 49-34 with 15:45 remaining.

Marquette would not go quietly, as they responded with a 12-2 run, and then pulled within a point, at 56-55, when Sam Hauser drained a three with 5:56 remaining.

Later on, there was a stretch in which Ponds made five straight free throws to give St. John’s a 68-63 lead with just 1:24 remaining.

Marquette came right back, as Hauser got a quick three-pointer, followed by another one of Sacar Anim to give them a 69-68 lead with 36 seconds left.

Ponds responded with his layup with 20 seconds left to make it 70-69, and then the Red Storm defense got a big stop, as Markus Howard missed a jumper with 7 seconds remaining.

St. John’s also got big contributions from Justin Simon had 19 points on a superb 8-11 shooting, with 6 rebounds and 3 assists; and Mustapha Heron had 10 points (3-8 FG, 3-5 threes), with 4 rebounds and an assist.

St. John’s defense was superb throughout, as they held Marquette to just 40.7 percent (22-54) shooting. They kept Markus Howard (like Ponds, a Big East Player of the Year candidate) in check, holding him to 17 points on 5-17 shooting, including 4-8 on threes, with 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

Sam Hauser led the way for Maquette with 19 points, but shot just 6-16 from the field and 3-12 on three-pointers, with 11 rebounds to give him a double-double. His brother Joey was held to just 4 points and did not make a basket, as he shot 0-3 from the field, with two misses from behind the arc.

St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin said of defeating Marquette twice, “I think our defense against Markus Howard and the Hauser brothers is the focal point. We’ve got some length and guys that can move their feet, so I think the switching helps but you still have to guard them. Howard can get free and get 40 in a half. The Hauser brothers, if you give them an inch, they’ll make shots.

“Overall, I thought we did a really good job again. They got hot towards the end again, getting free a little bit but our focus was to get them to play off the dribble. Try to get them to the two and live with some of the post ups and two-point shots. Through the first half, they got going in transition. Forty minutes of defense was exceptional. [They’re] one of the best offensive teams in the country with three of the best shooters I’ve seen together on the team ever. I think holding them to 69 on their own court is pretty phenomenal defense. The best thing about tonight was I could tell that they felt they were playing defense and could stop them. Deep down they felt they could stop them. For us, it’s a great bounce back game.”

Mullin said of their 2-1 road trip, which included a win at Creighton last Wednesday and a tough loss at Duke on Saturday, “We talked about coming out here and being on our own. Obviously we take it one [game] at a time but everyone has the big picture. I always go back to preparation, mentally and physically, and being resilient. Whatever happened, happened and we have to learn from it and move on. Our four veteran guys understand that and they are leading the way for the guys that need help. They ended up being the guys that made all the plays tonight.”

Ponds scored 13 of their last 14 points, and he said of stepping up late, “I mean, coach drew it up and I just wanted to execute the plays. We wanted to get hot with our pick and roll.”

Ponds said of his game-clinching basket, “I was just in attack mode. I got by him and finished at the rim. I just tried hurrying the play because the shot blockers were coming.”

Mullin said of Ponds, “You can see it pretty quickly when he’s moving with pace. Tonight, the first possession you could see he had some good thrust and pace that he maintained the whole night. He made some big baskets. He’s important to us because he draws a lot of attention and gets other guys open looks. His passing, screening and playing off the ball will get him points. When you are playing with pace and doing the little details to help [your] teammates, it makes him that much tougher to guard.”

Ponds said of the victory in Milwaukee, “It’s definitely a big win. It’s big for the program to beat Marquette [on their home court]. They don’t lose here. I’m really glad we came up with the win.”

Ponds said of their upcoming schedule, which includes five of their next six games at home, “We’re definitely ready to take off. We preach protecting our home court. We definitely have to go with that mindset.”

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