An exclamation point punctuates the latest chapter in the long and storied rivalry between St. John’s and Georgetown, as Shamorie Ponds scored 37 points to lead the Red Storm past the Hoyas, 97-94, in overtime at Capital One Arena on Saturday afternoon.
The Red Storm’s win marked the program’s first against Georgetown in the nation’s capital since Jan. 18, 2003. The Johnnies had lost 13-straight against the Hoyas in Washington since that last victory, which featured 34 points from Marcus Hatten.
With time ticking down in regulation, the Red Storm trailed Georgetown by four and only 28 seconds left to play. Ponds nailed a pair of free throws before LJ Figueroa came up with a steal on the ensuing defensive possession. The former junior college All-American was then fouled and hit two free throws of his own to knot the score at 85. The Johnnies subsequently registered one final stop to force overtime.
The Red Storm carried that momentum into the extra period, opening on a 9-1 run and leading by as many as eight before holding off a late Georgetown push that made it a one possession game with less than 30 seconds to go. Figueroa and Justin Simon kicked off overtime with alley-oops to one another on consecutive offensive possessions.
Ponds’ 37 points marked his fourth effort of the season and the 10th of his career with 30 points or more. 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, 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. The sharpshooting southpaw, who made 11 of his 21 field goal attempts and six of his 10 tries from beyond the arc, also dished out six assists and recorded four steals. With his fourth triple of the game, Ponds moved into sole possession of second place on the program’s career 3-pointers made list; Ponds (154) now trails only D’Angelo Harrison (264) in that category.
Ponds led five Johnnies in double figures for the fifth time in the team’s last eight games. Figueroa loaded up the stat sheet, finishing with 11 points, nine rebounds, five assists and a career-high six steals, the last of which helped complete the team’s comeback in regulation.
Simon tallied 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals in what was arguably his most complete performance of the season.
Mustapha Heron added 12 points while Marvin Clark II chipped in 11 and two steals to round out the Red Storm’s core of double-digit scorers.
As a team, the Red Storm shot 59.3 percent from the floor after halftime. On the game, the Johnnies also registered 23 assists with only 11 turnovers and nabbed 15 steals, their second highest total of the season.
The Red Storm’s 97 points were the most scored by the team in a BIG EAST contest since a 104-70 win against Providence on Feb. 15, 1999, at what was then known as Alumni Hall.
Bryan Trimble Jr., Greg Williams Jr. and Sedee Keita all played big minutes off the bench for the Johnnies, finishing with five, four and three points, respectively. Trimble and Williams registered two assists apiece as well.
With the Red Storm leading 7-5 following a pair of Ponds buckets with just over four minutes gone in the game, the Hoyas unleashed a 9-0 run to move ahead by seven, 14-7, two and a half minutes later.
After falling behind by as many as 11 on a pair of occasions near the midway mark of the half, the Red Storm began to chip away at the Hoyas’ advantage. Down by eight, 33-25, following a Jessie Govan jumper with five and a half minutes remaining in the period, the Johnnies uncorked a 7-0 run capped by a highlight reel sequence to bring the Red Storm within one. Figueroa came away with an acrobatic steal and saved the ball to Ponds, who then brought it across midcourt before finding Heron for an alley-oop slam.
James Akinjo responded with four consecutive free throws to bump the Georgetown advantage back to five, 37-32, before the Johnnies came calling once again. A Williams baseline drive for a slam kicked off a 10-0 spurt for the Red Storm, extending the Johnnies’ lead to five before a Govan layup knocked it back to three, 42-39, at the break.
The Hoyas quickly reclaimed the lead, 47-46, following back-to-back threes from Greg Malinowski on the other side of the intermission.
Up one, 55-54, following a Ponds triple with 13:27 to go, the Red Storm saw Georgetown score the game’s next nine points to open a 63-55 lead near the midway mark of the half.
Trailing by that same eight-point margin a few minutes later, the Red Storm let loose a 9-2 run to shave its deficit to one, 68-67, on a Heron triple with 7:24 to go. The Hoyas bumped their lead back to six, 73-67, before Simon nailed two jumpers and Ponds sank a triple on a 7-0 St. John’s tear, putting the Johnnies back ahead on top by one, 74-73, with five minutes to go in regulation.
The two teams battled back and forth over the next few possessions before the Hoyas rattled off five-straight points to make it 82-77 in favor of Georgetown with 1:40 to play.
Trailing 84-79 with 53 ticks left on the clock, St. John’s outscored the Hoyas 6-1 the rest of the way to force overtime. Heron converted on a driving layup before Ponds and Figueroa sank their crucial, ultimately game-saving free throws.
St. John’s, who is off to its first 14-1 start since 1985-86, returns to action on Tuesday night against the defending national champion, Villanova. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. at Finneran Pavilion.
St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin…
On the 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.”
On LJ Figueroa’s steal late in the second half:
“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.”
On preparing for Jessie Govan:
“[Jessie Govan] is tough to cover. He’s all over the floor. On the post, he’s lethal with that right jump hook. He’s has a quick release and has a knack of making tough baskets at the end of the shot clock. He was a big focus in our game plan and I thought our guys did a good job holding him down all night. Sedee [Keita] was big today being able to guard him in the post and also out on the perimeter, which is a huge luxury to have.”
On the experience of playing close games earlier this season that helped the team win today:
“It helps tremendously. Not just this year, for guys like Shamorie [Ponds], Justin [Simon], Marvin [Clark II] and Mustapha [Heron], this is their third year of playing competitive college basketball and they’ve all seen a lot of different situations. Having them helps steady everybody else. This season we’ve played a lot of close games, even early games so they’re all good experiences to look back on.”
On the team’s best start since 1985-86 and winning on Lou Carnesecca’s birthday:
“It was nice. 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.”
Junior Guard Shamorie Ponds…
On the overtime steal off of the attempted alley-oop:
“Coming off the pick and roll, I took a bad shot. I tried to make it up to my teammates. … I kind of saw it coming. He picked up his dribble and I anticipated the pass.”
On winning in Washington D.C. for the first time since 2003 and the impact it has on the team:
“We were definitely aware of it. We talked about it after we got the win. We fought and came out with a win.”
On 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.”
On the fast offensive start in overtime:
“[Georgetown] gave us a chance and we capitalized.”
Redshirt Junior Guard Justin Simon…
On the final seconds of regulation:
“It was a tough stretch towards the end. There were a couple of calls that didn’t go our way, but we shook them off. We have a veteran group out there with experience and we fought hard. In overtime, we took it possession by possession and evidently took the win.”
On team’s character:
“We have a lot of experience on this team. Mustapha [Heron] fouled out and we still were able to maintain the comeback. Then Marvin [Clark II] went out and then the next guy came up. We always have the next guy up ready to come in and play.”
On LJ Figueroa:
“We believed that he was going to make those free throws. I’m happy for him and that he knocked down those shots.”
“We’re coming in with a mindset that we have had all season of just go 1-0 every game. 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.”
Junior Forward LJ Figueroa…
On the steal late in the second half:
“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.”
On converting his two free throws to tie the game late in regulation:
“I was calm, cool, and collected. My teammates have the confidence in me to make those free throws.”
On winning the game with Marvin Clark II, Mustapha Heron, and Justin Simon fouled out:
“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.”
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