There was no jogging as St. John’s and Marquette took the court for a Wednesday evening shooting contest/ basketball game. Some strong offensive and pressure spurts - plus a surprise scoring turn from on St. John’s player - powered a Red Storm win over the Golden Eagles, 86-72.
It was their first win at Madison Square Garden since knocking off Syracuse in December of 2015.
St. John’s was led by some hot shooting from outside the arc, along with some stretches where they forced the Golden Eagles into uncharacteristic turnovers (17 in total, 23% of their possessions) and stopped them at the rim.
The Red Storm scored 18 points off of turnovers. Marquette shot 33% inside the arc for the game.
St. John’s improves to 5-6 in the Big East, while Marquette, still holding on to NCAA Tournament hopes, drops to 5-5 in conference play.
The game started as a contest between Bashir Ahmed (career-high 23 points) and Andrew Rowsey (a team-leading 21 points), as both got off to scorching hot starts. But despite the hot first-half shooting, both teams were a bit turnover prone. St. John's cleaned up their side of the action and put the clamps on Marquette in the middle of the first half, holding them scoreless for over four minutes to take the lead 24-23 as Tariq Owens' defense terrorized Marquette all over the court.
But the surprise was Kassoum Yakwe, whose game looked athletic and second-nature for the first time this season on offense.
Yakwe, MIA on offense for much of the season, became a true attacking presence. His 12 points in the first half topped his previous season high; he finished with 14 points, along with six total rebounds and three blocks. Owens was scoreless, but finished with 11 total rebounds and three blocked shots.
Meanwhile, quick feet and quick hands as Shamorie Ponds (18 points) led his own 7-0 run in the last minute and fifteen seconds to end the first half to grab the 45-37 lead.
In the middle of the second half, the Johnnies reeled off a 13-0 run to balloon the lead to 17, aided by a surge from Marcus LoVett, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half.
Marquette, struggling to get shots to fall all game, wilted under the pressure of early offense attempts by St. John's.
To be fair, even as that formula worked well for much of the game, when the Red Storm's shots weren't falling - like just after that 13-0 run was broken by an Andrew Rowsey layup - early offense misses gave the Golden Eagles a chance to get back in the game. A 10-0 scoring run was broken by Federico Mussini (6 points) with 8:30 left.
The rest of the game was the Johnnies clutching to the margin, weathering their own wild shot choices, their own poor transition defense and poor execution against a Marquette zone over the final ten minutes.
The clinching moment was like a possession with just over two minutes left; the Golden Eagles forced a long-distance heave by Ponds that barely touched the rim... but Bashir Ahmed fought for the offensive rebound against three Marquette players and drew a foul to push the lead to ten points.
Malik Ellison added eight points and three assists. St. John’s held Katin Reinhardt to three points, JaJuan Johnson to four and Markus Howard to nine. Sam Hauser scored 14 for Marquette before fouling out.
St. John's faces Villanova next in Philadelphia on Saturday night at 8:00 PM on CBS Sports Network (the cable channel). Marquette stays on the road but close to home, taking on DePaul at 2:00 PM on Saturday (Fox Sports 1).