St. John’s beats Georgetown in Big East Tournament opener

After losing two close regular-season games against Georgetown, St. John’s finally got the best of the Hoyas in the opening round of the Big East Tournament Wednesday night.

The St. John’s Red Storm, more commonly known as the Johnnies, and the Hoyas met Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden for the first round of the Big East Tournament. The meeting between the ninth and eighth seeds, respectively, determined which team would face the Xavier Musketeers, the No. 1 seed in the tournament and also ranked third nationally.

In the teams’ two prior meetings, the Hoyas won narrowly, with one game decided in double overtime. Seeking his first win this season against the Hoyas was sophomore and All-Big East first-team selection Shamorie Ponds, who had been sidelined the previous two games with an abdominal strain.

Ponds, the conference’s leading scorer and Brooklyn native, squared off against Queens’ own big man and Hoya Jessie Govan. With each team’s seasons on the line, this game could be the last for either player before transitioning to the NBA, where both are seen as potential second round picks in the upcoming draft.

Georgetown began the game by taking a 10-2 lead over the Johnnies. Shamorie Ponds then scored 11 of the next 14 points for the Johnnies, helping to close the gap. However, consistent shooting from three-point range helped the Hoyas stretch the led to 10.

The Johnnies continued to play behind strong defense, and with two back-to-back alley oops involving Justin Simon, they took their first lead 32-31.

Again the Hoyas found their stroke from range, and immediately after the alley-oops by Simon, a deep three pointer silenced the St. John’s crowd. By halftime the Hoyas had connected on 56 percent of their attempts from deep to lead the Johnnies, 48-42.

St. John’s struggled shooting the three ball connecting on only 25 percent of their attempts. At halftime Georgetown’s Jessie Govan led all scorers with 20 points, five rebounds, and one block and one assist. He was followed by Shamorie Ponds of St. John’s who had 13 points.

In the second half, St. John’s battled back to erase the deficit, and after five minutes of play they took the lead once again 56-55. Ponds, Justin Simon, Tariq Owens, Marvin Clark II and Bashir Ahmed continued to score, and each reached double figures.

Their efforts put the Johnnies up by 10, leading 78-68 with four minutes remaining. Unable to stop the Johnnies from scoring, the Hoyas began to intentionally foul. Despite a monster night from Govan, who finished with 28 points and 11 boards, and Marcus Derrickson, who finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, the Hoyas could not close the gap.

A 26-point effort from the conference’s leading scorer Ponds, a near triple-double from Simon, and double digit scoring from three other St. John’s players proved to be enough to finally give Georgetown a loss at their hands.

“It’s hard to beat St. John’s three times, they have a lot of talent on their team, and they’re very well coached and you have to bring your A game,” Hoyas Coach Patrick Ewing said. “We didn’t bring our A game.”

With the win the St. John’s Johnnies will be back at Madison Square Garden at noon Thursday facing off against top-ranked Xavier.

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