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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / February 23.
  • St. John’s tops Nova, first win over No. 1 team since ’85

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    PHILADELPHIA (AP) — For the first time in 33 years, the St. John’s men’s basketball team has taken down the nation’s top-ranked team.

    Behind 26 points from Shamorie Ponds, the Red Storm held off Villanova at The Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night, topping the No. 1 Wildcats, 79-75.

    The win marked the first over a No. 1 team for St. John’s since Jan. 26, 1985, when Chris Mullin scored 20 points to lead the Johnnies past Georgetown, 66-65, in Landover, Md.

    After knocking off then-No. 4 Duke on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, the Red Storm (12-13, 1-11) has defeated top five teams in back-to-back games for the first time in program history.

    “I never walk into a game thinking that we have no chance,” said Mullin. “These are huge wins, but more importantly for the players, I think it’s a testament to their perseverance, unselfishness with each other, their confidence, and I’m just happy for them.”
    In addition to his 26 points, Ponds added five rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals. The sophomore also converted on eight of his nine chances from the charity stripe.

    “Even through our losses, we always stick together,” said Ponds. “We go into every game knowing that we can win, and that’s just our mindset. The 11 games we’ve lost, a lot of them have been really close, so limiting that margin of error gives up a good shot of competing with anyone in the country.”

    Justin Simon tallied his sixth double-double of the season, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 boards. The Temecula, Calif., native also dished out seven assists and recorded a pair of steals.

    Marvin Clark II added an efficient 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including a 2-for-4 effort from three-point range. With the Red Storm’s lead down to one and less than 90 seconds to go, Clark converted on a crucial and-one to push the Johnnies’ advantage back to four.

    With nine points and nine rebounds, Tariq Owens did an exceptional job for the Red Storm in the front court. The redshirt junior also blocked two shots to reach the 150 mark for his career, just the sixth player in program history to do so.

    Bashir Ahmed also finished in double figures for the Red Storm with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting.

    The Red Storm limited the Wildcats (22-2, 9-2) to 75 points, their lowest point total since beating Northern Iowa, 64-50, in the Battle 4 Atlantis on Nov. 24. Coming into the game, Villanova ranked third nationally in scoring offense (88.4 ppg) and sixth in three-point field goal percentage (41.8 pct). On the evening, the Red Storm limited the Wildcats to 24 percent (8-of-33) from beyond the arc.

    Leading by five at the half, St. John’s saw Villanova tie the game at 41 after just two minutes. Following an Ahmed layup just over a minute later, the Red Storm led the rest of the way.

    The Johnnies enjoyed a hot start from the field, sinking its first three shot attempts and jumping out to a 7-2 lead on a Simon jumper with two minutes gone in the contest.

    St. John’s extended its advantage to as many as six on a pair of occasions over the next few minutes, including a Ponds strip of Jalen Brunson that was promptly followed by a transition three from the sophomore to make it 18-12 with 11:03 to go in the half.

    Villanova grabbed its first lead of the game, 21-20, at the 7:55 mark of the half on a jumper from Mikal Bridges, capping a 10-3 run for the Wildcats and marking the first of six lead changes over the next four-plus minutes.

    BIG PICTURE

    St. John’s can hang with the nation’s elite — it lost by five points to No. 5 Xavier in a streak of three straight games against AP Top 25 teams. But how will the Red Storm fare when the competition softens up a bit compared to this recent stretch of games?

    Villanova is set for a rematch with Butler, the only other team to beat them this season. Kelan Martin scored 24 points, Paul Jorgensen added a career-high 23 and Butler made 15 3-pointers in a 101-93 upset on Dec. 30.

    PASCHALL OUT

    Villanova forward Eric Paschall sat out and was entered in the team’s concussion protocol. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree got the start. Jermaine Samuels returned from a broken left hand and played for the first time since Dec. 27. The Wildcats are still without starter Phil Booth, sidelined indefinitely with a broken hand.

    UP NEXT

    St. John’s hosts Marquette on Saturday.

    The Wildcats host Butler on Saturday.

    Photo: @StJohnsBball

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