|Marvin Clark II driving for a basket on Wednesday night. @StJohnsBball.|
For the second straight year, St. John's knocked off Georgetown on the opening night of the Big East Tournament, as they came away with an 88-77 victory on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
It will be a quick turnaround for St. John's, as they will play at noon on Thursday against top-seeded Xavier.
St. John's was led by Shamorie Ponds, who poured in 26 points on 9-14 from the field, with three assists and two rebounds. Ponds was named to the All-Big East First Team this past Sunday, so he certainly showed why he was worthy of the honor.
Justin Simon and Marvin Clark II had 16 points apiece. Simon shot 5-6 from the field and notched 10 rebounds for a double-double, along with six assists. Clark shot 6-14 overall and 2-4 from behind the arc, along with four rebounds and an assist.
Tarik Owens had 13 points (6-9 FG) and seven rebounds, while Bashir Ahmed had 10 points (3-8 FG, 2-4 threes), six rebounds and three assists.
St. John's Head Coach Chris Mullin said of them having five players in double figures, "We practiced -- a lot of our sets have multiple options and it's up to Justin and Shamorie to make the right reads. They've done a great job of that all year. Exceptional in the second half. I thought their command of the reads and the command of their teammates was exceptional and sharing the ball, being unselfish."
St. John's came back from a 48-42 halftime deficit and started the second half on a 12-4 run capped by a pair of Ponds free throws at 15:55.
St. John's eventually opened up an eight-point edge, 67-59 on a Justin Simon three-point play with 9:17 left. They built that up to an 11-point lead, 82-71 on a Clark jumper with 2:48 left.
Overall, St. John's outscored Georgetown 46-29 in the second half.
Mullin was asked what was different about this one than their two losses to Georgetown in the regular season, and he said, "All the games have been really close games and ironically or not they really shot the three ball against us and they had nine at halftime. I thought our defense was much better in the second half.
"I thought the first half, they got too many open looks, too many walk-in 3s. No resistance. I thought we were fortunate to be only down 6 at halftime. And I thought our defense picked up in the second half and offensively we kind of got moving. And, like I said, Justin and Shamorie really dictated the flow of the game."
St. John's held Georgetown to just 25.8 percent shooting in the second half, and Mullin said of what changed about their defense from the first half, "I think we really just got more aggressive. I thought Marvin pressed up on Derrickson more beyond the 3-point line. I thought Tariq put more pressure on, and Lamar did a good job on Govan. They just were getting easy looks.
"And the other part of that I thought Justin and Shamorie contained the ball better. They were getting some blow-bys which were opening up those 3-point shots. They guarded the ball better, kept the guards out of the paint and made them shoot contested 2s.
"At halftime I tried everything -- we played zone and full-court press and we just weren't playing defense. And they flipped the switch at halftime and did a much better job."
Mullin on Tuesday said that if St. John's could get this one, anything is possible, and he said this when asked about those comments after the game, "Yeah, I mean I just told them the biggest thing right now is to get some rest. Eat a good meal. Get some rest. When you're playing a team for the third time there's less preparation you have to do, everyone knows the personnel. We know what kind of game either team's going to play. Everyone knows each other's inside and out personnel, game plans and things like that.
"Xavier is one of the most physical teams, I think, in the league offensively and defensively. We'll get on that a little bit tonight and do a little quick little film in the morning and be ready to go."
Mullin said of the job his old friend Patrick Ewing has done in his first year coaching his alma mater Georgetown, "Yeah, Patrick -- look, I've known him for about 30 years or so, more than that, probably -- but he's the same person he was when I first met him. And his work ethic, his discipline, that's going to carry over to anything he does. Obviously he did that as a player. He did it as an assistant coach in the NBA for many years.
"I think he's done a tremendous job in his first year, not only record-wise, but I think the way they play, the type of team. To me it resembles him, they're aggressive, unselfish, they work hard and he's very demanding. That's who he is."
Ewing said of the game, "It's very disappointing. But you know, it's hard to beat a good, quality team as St. John's three straight times. You know, they have a lot of talent on their team. They're very well-coached. And you have to be able to play your A game if you want to beat them.
"And as you see in the stat sheet, we didn't bring our A game. You know, Jessie and Marcus, they played, based on their stat sheet, they brought their A game, but no one else really stepped up. And we need, for us to beat that team, everyone has to pull their load and we didn't get that done tonight."
Ewing was referring to the fact that Georgetown shot just 38.7 percent, 0r 24-62, for the game.
Jessie Govan led Georgetown with 28 points, but he shot just 9-21 from the field, and 2-4 from three-point range.
Ewing said of Govan's performance, "He played well, not well enough. He played well. He's getting better. He still has a lot of work that he has to do on both ends of the court. He has to continue to run the floor on both ends. He still has to rebound. He has to become a better shot blocker.
"And he has to do a lot more things for us. And I'm going to need him to be, when he comes back next year for his senior season, he has to be my leader. He has to start leading. And a leader, you can lead in a lot of different ways. And he's going to have to choose which way that he wants to lead."
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