St. John's made their first-ever appearance in the AdvoCare Invitational a winning effort over Oregon State, 82-77.
The win took a late surge, but a game that was a struggle finished the Red Storm’s way; St. John’s faces Missouri tomorrow at 11:00 AM.
The Red Storm came into Thursday’s game trying to improve to 5-0 for the first time since opening the 2009-10 campaign with six-straight victories.
In th first half, Oregon State burst out to an early 9-6 lead within the first 5 minutes of the first half. St. John’s was cold from the floor, starting the game 4-16 (25%), compared to Oregon State’s 6-10 (60%) start. However, despite St. John’s poor shooting, the Red Storm were still within five points of the lead, forcing turnovers on many Beaver possessions.
The Johnnies were able to utilize a 9-1 run to take a 37-35 lead with 56 seconds left in the first half. However, the Beavers were able to score five quick points to take a 40-37 lead into halftime.
Ponds led the Red Storm with nine points at the half. Kassoum Yakwe and Tariq Owens had six points each. The Johnnies shot 10 of 12 as a team from the charity stripe. Defensively, the Red Storm forced 12 first-half turnovers while surrendering just two.
At the first media timeout of the second half, the Red Storm trailed 43-41. Oregon State continued to be effective from behind the arc as the Johnnies struggled to get scoring runs going.
Oregon State went on a 6-0 run with 11:22 left to play in the second half, leading 54-45. The Red Storm seemed destined for the loser’s bracket, but this would be the turning point of the game.
The Johnnies came out of the under 12-minute media timeout angry and on a mission.
Marcus LoVett hit a triple to bring the Johnnies within six points at 63-57 with 7:42 left to play.
LoVett and Bashir Ahmed scored five quick points a minute later to bring the deficit to three points at 65-62. LoVett, who was a pest on the court the entire game for the Johnnies, forced two Oregon State technical fouls by getting in the heads of both Ethan Thompson and Ronnie Stacy.
Kassoum Yakwe would give St. John’s their first lead in the second half, 69-67, with a monster slam off of a missed layup from LoVett. The Red Storm had exploded on a 17-5 run, outrunning and tiring the Beaver players down the stretch.
The Johnnies would not look back as they continued to put points on the board late in the game.
The Red Storm were able to keep the game out of reach by sinking their last eight free throws with under three minutes left to play. A late Ponds jumper with 33 seconds left to play was the icing on the cake for the Red Storm as they increased their lead to six at 78-72.
The Johnnies impressive 82-77 comeback victory displayed their adversity and team chemistry in a way that we have yet to see in the Mullin era.
“That’s a game that we would have never won last year…no way,” said Chris Mullin after the game.
Shamorie Ponds led all scorers with 26 points and six assists. The lefty sharpshooter, who came into today’s game leading the team with 17.3 points per game, finished with his third consecutive 20-point outing.
Marcus LoVett and Kassoum Yakwe were also big factors in today’s win. LoVett finished with 18 points and five rebounds and Yakwe finished with eight points off of six of seven shooting from the free throw line, plus energetic defense.
St. John’s has averaged a 23-point margin of victory in its four wins this season.
With today’s win, the Johnnies improve to 5-0 for the season and move on to the second round of the AdvoCare Invitational in a matchup with the Missouri Tigers tomorrow morning at 11 AM.
The Tigers manhandled Long Beach State in their first-round matchup today, defeating the 49ers, 95-58.