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St. John’s knocks off the Iona Gaels, 69-59

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Happy Holiday (Festival)

Wendell Cruz

It was a slow first half, but a 19-4 run by St. John’s wiped away a sluggish first half and carried the Red Storm in the Holiday Festival over Iona by final score was 69-59.

All five St. John’s starters reached double digits in points; St. John’s improves to 9-2 with a matchup against Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, the final matchup before conference play begins.

The first meeting between the Iona Gaels and the St. John’s Red Storm was a sluggish offensive matchup, or a defensive masterpiece, depending on your preference. Shamorie Ponds was shadowed for the whole game, with Iona making sure he could not get a clean catch.

Tim Cluess’s team played zone for most of the first half, and despite many different approaches to the zone, St. John’s could not get any offense from Shamorie Ponds - held to two points - or any offensive flow.

On the other side, Iona found their jump shots routinely blocked by Tariq Owens and Bashir Ahmed. St. John’s forced two shot clock violations on the Gaels, and the offense for the Gaels was a struggle.

But Iona found a 6-0 run at the end of the first half from Deyshonee Much and E.J. Crawford, who was fouled by a reaching Justin Simon for Simon’s third foul.

In the second half, the Red Storm got Ponds started on their first possession, and then started to run. Bashir Ahmed attacked the offensive glass, and the Red Storm took advantage of the man-to-man defense of the Gaels for layups. Between the newfound offensive flow and a pair of intentional fouls called on Iona, the Johnnies were rolling, leading by as many as 20 points.

Iona came as close as seven points, but St. John’s controlled the second half.

Shamorie Ponds led the Johnnies with 16 points, 14 in the second half. Justin Simon had 15 points before fouling out with a minute left in the game. Bashir Ahmed added 12 points with 11 total rebounds (5 offensive), and Tariq Owens and Marvin Clark II also added 12 points each.

Owens had six blocks, and Ahmed had two blocks; Ponds and Simon each had four steals apiece.

Iona was paced by Deyshonee Much (15 points).