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St. John’s final: Blackbirds stun Red Storm 74-73

Strong play in the paint by LIU allowed Blackbirds to peck away at St. John’s.

Malik Ellison dunks vs LIU in the first half
Wendell Cruz

Despite trailing for most of the second half, LIU Brooklyn defeats St. John’s 74-73 in heartbreaking fashion. With another unexpected loss, St. John’s falls to 5-6, with high-major competition for the rest of the year.

The shorthanded Red Storm got off to a slow start at the Barclays Center as they took a three-game winning streak on the road against the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds.

"We didn't carry the energy over from the last few games,” said Shamorie Ponds. “We came out too nonchalant and flat."

Despite leading for most of the second half, after serious offensive woes to start the game, St. John’s couldn’t hang on to a slim lead late in the game. Iverson Fleming double clutched and hit a tough jumper with 26 seconds left in the game that would give the Blackbirds a 74-73 lead. Despite three intense opportunities to score, the Red Storm were unable to score the game-winning bucket.

Wendell Cruz

The Red Storm were without Marcus LoVett—missing his third straight game—and Amar Alibegovic. Short an additional player with the departure of Yankuba Sima, St. John’s got into early trouble as foul trouble forced Coach Mullin to adjust on the fly with his substitutions.

Shamorie Ponds carried the offense early on, getting St. John’s on the board with an early three. The Brooklyn native scored eight of St. John’s first 17 points in the game and finished with 18 points. However, poor interior defense would allow the Blackbirds to take an early 17-8 lead on 7-for-8 shooting.

With their struggles defending the paint came foul trouble as Kassoum Yakwe, Tariq Owens and Darien Williams all picked up two fouls in the first half. But with the foul trouble of the first two aforementioned came the opportunity for Williams to get some crucial minutes.

Williams led the team at the half with 12 points, including a breakaway dunk following a steal at the four-minute mark that helped reenergize the Red Storm. Williams finished with a career-high 15 points and gave the Johnnies something they often lack: interior scoring from their bigs.

Bashir Ahmed added 14 points, scoring a healthy chunk of his points at the free throw line. St. John’s did a great job of getting to the free throw line in the first half converting on 13 of 18 attempts.

After digging themselves out of an early hole and taking a lead that would never grow larger than seven, the Red Storm struggled to make any run and give themselves breathing room. Any time they seemed to be gaining any traction on putting together a run, the Blackbirds would make a big play and kill any momentum.

At the end of the game, the Red Storm got chances for a buzzer beater. The final chance was a jumper in the paint by Shamorie Ponds that fell just short, leaving the Red Storm program and fans disappointed and anxious about what future games will bring.

For the Blackbirds, Fleming finished with a game-high 21 points. Malik Ellison showed some promising signs attacking the rim and dished out 5 assists in the game. Mussini struggled to get going, shooting just 3-of-10 for 11 points, but hit a big three down stretch.

St. John’s 3-game winning streak comes to a halt with the loss. Darien Williams was a shining light as the second-leading scorer, adding 15 points in 21 minutes - he had played 13 minutes all season and scored two points.

“Darien [Williams] was phenomenal,” coach Mullin added. “If we didn't have him in the first half, we would have been down 20.”