St. John’s Survives In Big East Tournament First Round

St. John’s has its first Big East Tournament win in six years. The Red Storm took down Georgetown for the second time in as many weeks behind 17 points from freshman Shamorie Ponds, winning their opening-round contest with the Hoyas 74-73 Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Despite shooting a shade over 30% in the first half, St. John’s closed the opening stanza on a 10-4 run to erase a nine point deficit and take a 38-34 lead into the intermission.

The Johnnies picked up where they left off in the second stanza, opening up an eight point lead – their largest lead of the night – on a Federico Mussini layup with 14:42 remaining. However, the Hoyas quickly battled back, and four and a half minutes later tied the game at 54 on an L.J. Peak layup.

Peak’s night was just getting started, as the junior accounted for 14 consecutive Georgetown points over a 6:28 period. After posting just two points in six minutes in the first half, Peak made seven of eleven shots in the final twenty minutes and finished the night with a game-high 24.

“That’s just how I play,” Peak said of his aggressive second half. “It’s something I do, and I have to impact the game somehow.”

As teams battled down the stretch, we were treated to a brief glimpse of the old Big East.

With 8:35 remaining in the game, the Red Storm’s Amar Alibegovic fouled Peak, holding him back with both hands to prevent his rise to toward the basket. An ensuing fracas morphed from pushing and shoving between players to a heated meeting at mid-court between St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin and Georgetown head coach John Thompson III and assistant Patrick Ewing Jr.

Alibegovic was hit with a flagrant 1 foul for the play on the court, while Mullin and Ewing Jr. were tagged with technicals.

“It’s the Big East Tournament,” Thompson said after the game. “It’s just competition. That’s all.”

After the game, tensions seemed to have been eased, as Mullin and Ewing Jr. were seen talking following handshakes.

“I asked him if he was going to beat me up like his father did,” Mullin joked postgame. “He said no, I love you, so I said OK. He was on the trip with us in Barcelona when he was a little baby. So yeah, just tremendous respect there; there really is.”

St. John’s opened a six point lead in the final minutes, but Georgetown closed on a 7-2 run to cut the Red Storm lead to one with 36.6 seconds remaining. After a botched St. John’s possession, the Hoyas took over out of a timeout with less than seven seconds on the clock.

Peak once again took charge, driving toward the basket, but was blocked by the Red Storm’s Tariq Owens. The loose ball bounced into the hands of the Hoyas’ Marcus Derrickson, but the sophomore’s layup rolled off the rim.

Bashir Ahmed, Malik Ellison, and Darien Williams joined Ponds in double figures with 14, 11, and 10 respectively. Ellison stuffed the stat sheet with an additional eight rebounds, six assists, and three steals.

Rodney Pryor had 17 for the Georgetown to support Peak’s effort, while Derrickson finished the night with 11 points along with nine rebounds.

Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.