After a furious second half rally gave Marquette its first lead in 38 minutes with just 32 seconds to go, the St. John’s men’s basketball team used a clutch bucket from Shamorie Ponds and a spectacular defensive effort from Mustapha Heron to hang on and defeat No. 10/9 Marquette, 70-69, at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday night.
With his team facing a one-point deficit, its first since the 18:34 mark of the first half, following a Sacar Anim 3-pointer with 32 seconds to play, Ponds took advantage of a Marquette miscue on defense to put the Red Storm back ahead by one 16 seconds later. On the ensuing offensive possession, Heron put forth a tremendous individual effort to force an off-balance shot from Markus Howard and secure a St. John’s victory.
Marquette (19-4, 8-2 BIG EAST) had not lost since a New Year’s Day drubbing at the hands of the Red Storm in Carnesecca Arena, rattling off a stretch of eight-straight victories in that span. In addition to snapping the Golden Eagles’ winning streak, the Red Storm (17-6, 5-5 BIG EAST) also handed Marquette its first ever loss at Fiserv Forum, a building in which the team had been 14-0 with three ranked wins.
The win marked the third over a top-10 foe in the span of a little over a year for the Johnnies, who also defeated No. 1 Villanova and No. 4 Duke last February. The victory also gave the Red Storm its fourth Quadrant One triumph of the campaign.
The Red Storm’s victory capped a 2-1 road trip that spanned eight days and resulted in a pair of Quad One wins. The Johnnies also became just the fifth team since conference realignment to sweep Marquette and Creighton in the same season.
In the second battle of the season between BIG EAST Player of the Year front runners, Ponds came out on top once again. The junior guard scored 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting in addition to a perfect 9-for-9 effort from the charity stripe. Ponds scored the Red Storm’s final 10 points and 15 of the team’s last 16 to close the game. The Brooklyn native also pulled down a team-high seven boards and swiped a pair of steals, becoming just the sixth player in St. John’ history to record 200 thefts in a career, tying Sir’Dominic Pointer for fifth on the program’s all-time steals list. Ponds has now scored 20 points or more in eight-straight conference games dating back to the Red Storm’s first win over Marquette on Jan. 1 and has scored at least 20 in 14 of his 22 appearances this season.
Having scored just 17 points in his last four games combined entering the contest, Justin Simon authoritatively snapped his funk in Milwaukee. The redshirt junior guard sank eight of his 11 field goal tries and converted on all three of his free throw attempts, finishing with 19 points, just one off his season high. He also collected six boards and dished out a team-high three assists.
Heron added 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting from three-point land while LJ Figueroa chipped in nine points. Both Heron and Figueroa tallied four rebounds apiece.
Using just a seven-man rotation because of a hand injury to Bryan Trimble Jr., St. John’s received two points apiece from Greg Williams Jr. and Sedee Keita, the latter of whom recorded two blocks.
Howard, the BIG EAST’s leading scorer, netted 17 points for Marquette while Sam Hauser recorded a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double.
St. John’s led by as many as 15 at the 15:42 mark of the second half before the Golden Eagles slowly started to chip away at the Red Storm advantage. Marquette trimmed the lead down to one on a pair of occasions in the final six minutes, but the Johnnies managed to respond on both occasions.
Leading by five, 68-63, following a pair of Ponds free throws with 1:24 to play, St. John’s saw Marquette nail back-to-back treys to take its first lead since the game’s opening 90 seconds.
Ponds then sank his final bucket before Heron’s defensive stand sealed the victory for the Red Storm.
Leading by a pair, 10-8, with five and a half minutes gone in the contest, Heron drained a three before Simon added four straight of his own, capping a 7-0 run and putting the Johnnies ahead by nine with 12:05 to go in the opening stanza.
After Figueroa bumped the Red Storm’s lead to 12, 25-13, with a floater, Howard snapped a streak of six consecutive misses to start the game by nailing a trey and converting on a four-point play, cutting the Johnnies’ lead to a handful with just over five minutes left until the break. Marquette missed its first nine three-point attempts of the game before Howard’s initial make.
The Johnnies used a quick 7-1 run to bump its lead back to 11, 34-23, two minutes later, punctuated by an alley-oop slam from Figueroa to Simon.
Leading by 10 at the half, the Red Storm quickly built its lead to 15 following a 5-0 spurt with just over four minutes gone in the period before Marquette began its slow climb back into the contest.
St. John’s returns to action on Saturday at Madison Square Garden when the Johnnies host Providence at 12 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
POSTGAME QUOTES: St. John’s vs. Marquette
St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin:
On 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.”
On stopping Marquette’s comeback…
“We were trying to get stops. We felt if we got the stops, we would win the game. It’s a tough thing to do for 40 minutes. At some point, you find a rhythm and we came up with one stop at the end and that’s what it came down to with a clean rebound. Early on, the offensive rebounds, put backs and getting to the free throw line helped. In 40 minutes, you are going to give something up and you have to be good enough to regroup and get the one stop at the end.”
On Shamorie 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.”
On 2-1 road trip…
“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.”
Junior guard Shamorie Ponds:
On scoring 13 of the team’s last 14 points…
“I mean, coach drew it up and I just wanted to execute the plays. We wanted to get hot with our pick and roll.”
On 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.”
On what this win over #10 Marquette means to the team…
“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.”
On the team’s upcoming schedule (five of 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.”
On Justin Simon’s defense during the last possession….
“If you ask me, Justin [Simon] is the best defender in our conference. We expected this out of him, just like we did at home.”
Junior guard Justin Simon:
On his performance today…
“Personally, I felt like I was struggling the past couple of games. At Butler, I felt like I didn’t play my best and again with Georgetown at home. At Creighton I was sick. At Duke I was still getting over being sick. This game I wanted to come out and be aggressive and do what my team needed me to do. Coach [Mullin] wanted me to be a cutter, screener, and defensively they know what I can bring to the table and I think I did that today.”
On the Markus Howard stop at the end of the game…
“We need more of that. We have to stop some more guards in the BIG EAST from here on out.”
On his success in regards to guarding Markus Howard…
“It’s a team thing. We put some fresh bodies out on the court. We switch a lot and give him different looks throughout the game. I felt like I threw his rhythm off. Just working like a dog. Making him a driver instead of being the three-point threat that he is. I made sure to take that away and make his teammates make plays instead of him. He’s an incredible player. One of the best in the BIG EAST.”
On Shamorie Ponds’ performance…
“His will to win and his maturity stood out tonight. He’s matured over the past three years. He’s a big-time player and he made some big plays tonight. Down the stretch, he had us in the huddle telling us to lock up and defend. We put the ball in his hands, created space for him and he made some great plays.”
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