|Marcus LoVett slams one home - @StJohnsBBall.
St. John's got a big win on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, as they outlasted Georgetown, 86-80, to improve to 13-16 overall and 7-9 in Big East Conference play.
After trailing by one at the half, St. John’s sank 52 percent of its field goals in the second half, including 4-for-5 from downtown.
Shamorie Ponds led the way for the Red Storm with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting to become just the third freshman in program history to eclipse the 500-point mark in a season.
The sharp-shooting lefty from Brooklyn joins D’Angelo Harrison (544, 2011-12) and Erick Barkley (500, 1998-99) as the only rookies in program history to net 500 in a campaign.
Ponds shot 2-of-3 from behind the arc to bumped his season-long three-point total to 67, moving him into sixth place on the St. John’s single-season record list in that category and just nine shy of the all-time record (Harrison- 76, 2011-12).
St. John's Head Coach Chris Mullin said of Shamorie Ponds’ freshman season, “He’s been pretty amazing all year long. [He’s been] so good that if you watch him you’d probably forget that he is a freshman. Early on, he really exceeded my expectations and has been consistent and probably better as the season has gone on. We have total confidence in him. He’s got confidence in himself and more importantly, his teammates have confidence in him. He’s one of those kids that can score the ball but he’s always trying to make the right plays. He’s as dangerous scoring as he is making the pass or drawing the defense. The big thing tonight, if you look at the stats, the big thing was our free throw shooting. So we can put guys in there at the end of the game even if we just have a one-point lead, whether it’s Marcus [LoVett], Shamorie [Ponds], Federico [Mussini], if they get fouled, they have to make their free throws which is key.”
Federico Mussini orchestrated a key first half run for the Red Storm and finished with 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting and a 3-of-4 effort from beyond the arc.
Bashir Ahmed also added 16 points for the Johnnies, with 14 of those in coming in the second half. In addition, the junior wing from the Bronx corralled five boards.
Marcus LoVett also came up big in the second half for the Red Storm, scoring nine of his 11 points and dishing out three of his four steals in the final 20 minutes action. The redshirt freshman also sank four crucial free throw attempts in last 31 seconds of the contest.
The Red Storm forced 22 Georgetown turnovers on the afternoon, converting those into 25 points. 16 of those turnovers came in the first half for the Hoyas (14-15, 5-11).
The Johnnies proved lethal from beyond the arc, sinking seven of their 13 tries from distance. The effort marked the Red Storm’s best in terms of percentage since draining 12 of its 22 chances against DePaul in a win at Carnesecca Arena on Jan. 16.
The Red Storm’s defense provided relentless pressure to open the contest, as St. John’s forced six Georgetown turnovers in the first six minutes of the game to grab an early 8-7 advantage.
Trailing 13-10 just inside the 12-minute mark of the first half, the Johnnies unleashed a 17-0 run to take a commanding first-half lead. Mussini started the tear with a personal 8-0 run of his own, sinking back-to-back triples before converting on a pair of free throws. After Ponds nailed a fadeaway jumper to extend the run to 10-0, Mussini registered a steal on a Georgetown inbound and took it down the floor for a fastbreak layup. Ponds bumped the run to 14-0 with a driving layup before the Johnnies scored the last three points of the run at the free throw line, as Darien Williams drew contact before Bradley Hayes was assessed a technical following the play. Williams made both of his tries before Mussini went 1-of-2 on the technical tries to make it 17 unanswered.
The Red Storm run was fueled by sharp-shooting and plenty of Georgetown turnovers, as the Hoyas at one point had 13 turnovers and 13 points at the 8:22 mark of the half.
Georgetown wasted no time responding, as the Hoyas fired off a 17-0 run of their own to take a three-point lead, 32-29, on a Rodney Pryor triple with just over two minutes to play in the half. The Hoyas built their lead to as many as four by the end of the period, but Ponds converted on his first 3-pointer of the game to cut the deficit to one, 36-35, at the intermission.
The Johnnies kicked off the second half on a 10-3 run, as Ponds and Ahmed each scored four points to help the Red Storm take a six-point lead, 45-39, into the period’s first media timeout.
Georgetown narrowed the deficit to one on three occasions before the midway mark of the half, but the Red Storm on each occasion managed to maintain and build back its lead.
The Hoyas trimmed the lead to one two more times inside the 10-minute mark, but the Johnnies were ready to answer once again, as LoVett sank a jumper and Mussini nailed a corner three to keep the Hoyas at bay.
After the Red Storm built the lead to as many as nine, 76-67, with just 2:25 remaining on the clock, the Hoyas made one last push, trimming the deficit to just one, 78-77, following a Pryor three-point play 65 seconds later.
The young St. John's team showed incredibly maturity and poise down the stretch, as they forced a few key Georgetown misses and made their final eight free throw attempts.
Mullin said of playing through adversity at home, “I thought we got off to a bad start, lackadaisical, and our bench came in and gave us a big spark. And then we went back in the tank a little bit, but at halftime we talked about playing the game like we played for about five or six minutes in the first half and we were fortunate to be down one point and really just tried to focus on being unselfish on the offensive end and staying locked in on defense and not gambling. I thought a lot of times we were putting pretty good pressure on the ball, but then towards the end of the [shot] clock we were gambling and giving them open looks. In the second half we did much better staying disciplined. In general, I think these guys feed off the crowd, for sure. I think they’re comfortable playing here now. It wasn’t always the case. I thought our first few games here they were not but now they are, so it’s always good. We talked about it yesterday, to be a good team the first thing you have to do is protect home court. And to be above average, you win on the road. So I think we’re making a step towards playing well at home and the sooner we do that on the road, that will be the next step.”
Mullin said of forcing 22 turnovers, “I think we forced them into 16 at half, the problem was we really didn’t get much out of it. We were turning the ball right back over. I love our pressure and I love our length. It’s just kind of two mindsets, we want to be really aggressive in the backcourt and create havoc, but then in the half court, we want to be disciplined and keep the ball in front of us. Similar to the offensive end having two different mindsets where we want to play in the open floor as much as possible, but if there’s not a good shot there, we want to take the ball and get the shot that we wanted and make them play defense.”