Red Storm Drops Close Contest to No. 1/1 Villanova, 78-71|
Jan. 13, 2018
NEW YORK - Taking on the nation's top team inside "The World's Most Famous Arena," the St. John's men's basketball team pulled within four in the game's final minute but could not close the gap, as No. 1/1 Villanova escaped the Garden with a 78-71 victory on Saturday night.
Shamorie Ponds turned in a stellar effort for the Johnnies (10-8, 0-6), tallying a career-high 37 points on 15-of-28 shooting to go along with seven rebounds. The sophomore's scoring effort marked the best for a St. John's player since March 6, 2003, when Marcus Hatten dropped 44 against Rutgers at The Garden.
Defensively, the Red Storm held the Wildcats (16-1, 4-1) well below their season scoring average of 88.9 points per game. The Johnnies also forced 17 turnovers out of a Villanova team that was averaging just 10.0 per outing coming into the contest.
After starting just 2-of-10 from beyond the three-point arc, Villanova went on to hit eight of its next 10 and 11 of its next 20 overall.
The St. John's defense dominated in the early going, holding the Wildcats scoreless for the opening 3:09 and without a field goal for the first 4:15 of the contest.
Trailing 6-4 with just over five minutes gone in the game, St. John's unleashed a 6-0 run, moving ahead 10-6 following a pair of jumpers from Ponds with 13:33 to play in the opening stanza.
The two teams traded buckets over the next several minutes of game action before Bryan Trimble Jr. broke a 17-17 tie with a triple from the left wing to give the Johnnies a three-point lead with just under eight minutes to play in the period.
From there, Villanova uncorked a slow 12-3 run, climbing ahead by six, 29-23, on a Jalen Brunson three-ball with 1:55 left until the break.
After climbing ahead by as many as nine on a 3-pointer from Omari Spellman, Villanova entered the locker room with a 34-27 edge over the Johnnies.
The Wildcats continued to convert from deep on the other side of the intermission, hitting four of their first six tries from three-point range and climbing ahead by as many as 11, 52-41, with 12:48 to play.
The Johnnies whittled the deficit down to as little as seven, 57-50, on a Tariq Owens dunk four and a half minutes later, but the Wildcats continued to answer the St. John's threat.
Trailing by 11 with just over four minutes to play, the Red Storm unleashed one final run. Led by four points from Ponds, the Johnnies scored the game's next seven, shaving their deficit down to four, 69-65, with 1:18 to play. On the ensuing defensive possession, Ponds was assessed a blocking foul on a physical play following a Villanova miss. The Wildcats proved their maturity down the stretch, sinking all five of their free throw attempts to seal the victory.
The Red Storm will face its second nationally-ranked opponent in as many games on Wednesday, traveling to Cincinnati for a showdown with No. 10/10 Xavier.
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