The St. John’s men’s basketball team snapped a two-game skid in authoritative fashion on Wednesday night, shooting 58 percent from the floor and hitting 13 3-pointers in an 83-67 win over Creighton at CHI Health Center Omaha.
The win marked the first ever victory for St. John’s in Omaha, as the Red Storm possessed an 0-7 record in road games against the Bluejays heading into Wednesday. It also gave the Johnnies their first regular season sweep of Creighton since the latter joined the BIG EAST in 2013.
Beginning with a 15-5 run to close the first half, St. John’s shot 71.4 percent (20-of-28) from the floor and 58.8 percent (10-of-17) from beyond the arc over the final 22:30 of game action. The Red Storm missed just one shot from two-point range
Shamorie Ponds led the way for the Red Storm (16-5, 4-5 BIG EAST), scoring a game-high 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including a 4-for-8 showing from beyond the arc. In addition to his scoring touch, Ponds also paced the Johnnies with game highs of eight rebounds, eight assists and six steals. The Brooklyn native, who entered the game ranked third in the BIG EAST in scoring, surpassed the 20-point plateau for the seventh straight outing and the 13th time overall this season.
After scoring 18 points last time out against Creighton (12-9, 3-5 BIG EAST), Mustapha Heron continued to create matchup problems for the Bluejays inside. The junior guard scored 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including a 6-for-8 showing from within the three-point arc. Heron, who is averaging 18.3 points per game over his last four outings, also grabbed seven boards.
LJ Figueroa made all six of his shot attempts from two-point range en route to finishing with 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.
With a migraine limiting Justin Simon to just seven minutes on the evening, Bryan Trimble Jr. made the most of his time on the floor. In a career-high 33 minutes of action, Trimble posted 11 points of 4-of-6 shooting, collected four rebounds and matched a career best with two assists. It marked the sophomore’s second collegiate game in double figures.
Marvin Clark II narrowly missed becoming the fifth Johnnie in double figures, finishing with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. He also tallied seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The Red Storm’s victory helped create some separation in the BIG EAST standings at the midway mark of conference play, as the Johnnies are now part of a two-way tie with Seton Hall for third place.
After trading blows with the Bluejays in the early going, the Red Storm found itself trailing by five, 22-17, with 11:17 to play following an 8-3 Creighton spurt.
Following a media timeout, the Red Storm rattled off the game’s next six points, sparking a 12-3 run and giving the Johnnies a four-point lead, 29-25, after a deep two from Sedee Keita with four and a half minutes to go in the half. During the run, the Red Storm held Creighton to just 1-of-12 shooting over a span of nearly seven minutes.
Creighton knotted the game at 29 before Clark drained a trey to put the Red Storm back ahead by three. Ty-Shon Alexander tied the game once again at 32 with his fourth three of the half, but the Johnnies closed the period on a tear. Beginning with Clark’s triple, the Red Storm sank its last five shot attempts of the half, all of which were from distance. Ponds launched three of those treys while Greg Williams Jr. sank the other.
Overall, the Red Storm closed the period on a 15-5 run and took a 44-34 edge into the locker room.
Creighton whittled the St. John’s lead down to eight, 48-40, in the opening minutes of the latter stanza following four straight points form Martin Krampelj. The Red Storm responded by holding the Bluejays scoreless for nearly four minutes and scoring the game’s next nine points to take a 57-40 advantage with 14:36 to play. Ponds scored the run’s first four points before Figueroa closed things out with a transition dunk and a deep three.
The Bluejays unleashed two more runs over the next several minutes, but the Johnnies answered quickly and forcefully on each occasion. Creighton first cut the St. John’s lead to 12 before a 9-2 run gave the Red Storm a 19-point lead with just under 10 minutes to play. An 11-3 Creighton outburst over the next two minutes then carved the deficit to 11, but the Johnnies never let the Bluejays get any closer, as a 15-5 run gave the Red Storm its largest lead of the game, 83-62, with just over four minutes remaining in regulation.
The Johnnies continue their road swing on Saturday, traveling to Cameron Indoor Stadium for a showdown with No. 2 Duke before heading back to the Midwest for a Tuesday date with No. 10 Marquette at Fiserv Forum, a building in which the Golden Eagles have yet to lose this season.
POSTGAME QUOTES: St. John’s vs. Creighton
St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin
On his talk with the team yesterday before playing Creighton…
“We’re in good shape. Coming into [today’s game], we had ten league games left. We played a total game of basketball [tonight]. We had some tough stretches, tough breaks. … I felt pretty confident that we were going to play a good game. I thought we executed really well defensively. Our transition defense was good. We guarded their three-point shooters well. We fought on the boards. We rebounded. … They went out and played great. We did talk yesterday about knowing where we are, where we’ve been, and who we are. … We had some tough games and we’ve played good ones. We’re capable. We’ve done it. We fall and bounce back. It’s what we do.”
On if tonight’s win was their best performance of the season…
“I thought we played a great game. All the other stuff, I never go backwards or forwards. … I prepare on getting my team prepared. Having them feel confident. Putting out a good game plan. Have some backup stuff ready and most importantly, have the team play with passion. I think the best thing was that they played for each other and they always have.”
On Bryan Trimble’s performance…
“He played great. I’m so happy for him. We want to give our guys minutes. Tonight he got his opportunity and he came through. He’s a tough kid. He plays the post well. He’s one of our highest IQ guys. He knows everything we do on offense and defense. Tonight he put together a great game. He was one of the best players out there for us.”
St. John’s guard Bryan Trimble Jr.
On tonight’s game…
“Whatever my team needed, I tried my best to take care of it. I made shots. I saw it in myself and being able to do that is a confidence builder.”
On the team’s performance…
“Sometimes we don’t come out on top but every night is a must-win. We don’t look past any games.”
St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds
On what Head Coach Chris Mullin said…
“Resilience. We dropped a few games in a row and this game was an important win to start our three-game road trip.”
On the team’s effort…
“We are back to playing our game and our best basketball. Everyone is involved and having fun.”
On the recent negativity…
“We know what we are capable of. We don’t have to prove to anyone out there. We are going to go out there and play our game. There is always going to be someone who has something good and something bad to say. We just have to stick to our game plan.”
On in-game transitions…
“In the second half, we had a big lead. I wasn’t trying to rush anything and get the best shot as possible.”
On playing Duke…
“It’ll be my first time there so I’m definitely excited.”
For more information on St. John’s Athletics fans are encouraged to click on the link seen here: