St. John's Stuns No. 13/13 Butler, 76-73|
Dec. 29, 2016
QUEENS, N.Y. - Trailing the No. 13 team in the nation by as many an as 10 near the midway mark of the second half, the Red Storm battled back to down its first ranked opponent on campus in 18 years, defeating Butler, 76-73, in front of a sold-out crowd at Carnesecca Arena.
The Red Storm (7-7, 1-0 BIG EAST) last beat a ranked opponent in Carnesecca Arena, formerly named Alumni Hall, on Dec. 9, 1998, when the Johnnies topped No. 20 Pittsburgh, 73-52. The Red Storm's last win on campus against a top 15 team came earlier in that calendar year, when St. John's downed No. 15 West Virginia, 77-69. Thursday's win over the Bulldogs (11-2, 0-1 BIG EAST) marked the Johnnies' best on campus since Feb. 23, 1983, when the ninth-ranked Redmen downed No. 13 Syracuse, 85-69. Sophomore Chris Mullin scored 19 points in that victory over the Orangemen.
Overall, the Red Storm bested a ranked opponent for the first time since Feb. 9, 2014, when D'Angelo Harrison scored 19 points to lead the Johnnies past Doug McDermott and No. 12/12 Creighton, 70-65.
Shamorie Ponds proved magnificent once again for the Red Storm, tying a career-high with 26 points, 19 of which came in the second half, on 9-of-15 shooting and grabbing seven boards. The freshman from Brooklyn went 6-of-6 from the charity stripe, including four key conversions in the final 10 seconds. The Preseason BIG EAST Freshman of the Year also had two steals and two blocks in 36 minutes of action.
Bashir Ahmed added 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting and pulled down five boards. The Bronx native also recorded a career-high three steals.
The third of three Johnnies to reach double figures, Marcus LoVett tallied 10 points and two assists while sinking all six of his tries from the free throw line.
Malik Ellison chipped in seven points, including a crucial dunk to tie the game down the stretch, while Darien Williams had another solid performance off the bench with six points on 3-of-3 shooting and six rebounds in 22 minutes.
As a team, the Red Storm shot 50 percent or better for the fifth time this season, converting on 27 of its 50 shot attempts (54.0 pct). The Johnnies were also 18-of-21 (85.7 pct) from the charity stripe before an ultimately inconsequential pair of misses in the waning seconds.
With the Red Storm trailing by five following a Kelan Martin jumper with 2:56 to go, Ponds nailed a 3-pointer before Ellison stole the ball in the defensive half and took it the length of the floor to slam it home and tie the game at 69.
After Tyler Wideman put the Bulldogs back on top by two with a second-chance layup, LoVett tied the game once again at 71 with a baseline jumper and 41 seconds left on the clock. On the other end, the Red Storm got a stop and drew a foul that sent Ellison to the line. The sophomore made the first and missed the second, but Tariq Owens made a tremendous effort to tie up the loose ball and force a held-possession call with the arrow in the Red Storm's favor. On the ensuing inbound, Ponds took the ball and drew a foul before calmly sinking a pair of free throws to put the Red Storm up three, 74-71, with 9.2 seconds on the clock.
With the lead at three, the Red Storm chose to foul and Tyler Lewis made both of his tries to bring Butler within one, 74-73. Ponds corralled the inbound once again and drew the foul, showing maturity and poise beyond his years by sinking both of his free throws for the second-straight possession.
The Bulldogs had a chance to tie the contest at the buzzer, but a half-court heave from Martin bounced off the iron.
The Red Storm erased a deficit in the opening half as well, trailing by as many as six before entering the locker room deadlocked at 38. Ahmed scored 11 first-half points to lead the Johnnies in the opening stanza.
The win marked the first for St. John's in a BIG EAST opener since Dec. 27, 2011, when Moe Harkless scored 32 points and grabbed 13 boards to lead the Red Storm past Providence, 91-67.
The Red Storm returns to action on New Year's Day, traveling to Rosemont, Ill., for a 2 p.m. ET showdown with the DePaul Blue Demons. The game will be televised live on FS1 and on 570 AM WMCA.