For once for the Johnnies, it was a close game in Omaha... but despite a strong effort and the return of Shamorie Ponds, the Red Storm did not return to Queens with a win. St. John’s lost a tough one, 78-71, falling to 0-3 in the Big East and 10-5 on the season.
Early in the game, the Red Storm looked like a team that came to compete but would lose the plot some time in the first half.
The Red Storm had Bashir Ahmed scoring 10 of the team’s 15 points, with little contribution from Shamorie Ponds, returning after sitting out a game due to an injury in the Big East opener against Providence.
The Bluejays were finding shots. They tested Shamorie Ponds’ defensive quickness, executed pick and rolls and back door cuts for scores.
Late in the first half, Ponds showed what he could do, despite looking a step off of his attacking game.
Ponds scored his first basket off of a steal at halfcourt to kick off a 14-0 run to finish the first half. That half featured 47% shooting outside the arc, 24 points combined from Tariq Owens and Bashir Ahmed and solid defense - deflections, rim defense late in the half, and on-ball steals.
In the second half, Ponds started slowly again, but St. John’s defended well enough for the first seven minutes. Justin Simon added this dunk:
Justin! Simon! #SJUBB on top by eight, 54-46, with 15:35 to play here in Omaha. pic.twitter.com/uGOnqFfs9V— St. John's BBall (@StJohnsBBall) January 4, 2018
...but then allowed a layup in transition to Marcus Foster. That highlight sequence was soon followed by a seven minute lull from St. John’s.
Playing too fast, like freshmen on the road for the first time, St. John’s started to show the effects of playing a road game against a very talented and well-coached team.
Was it the effect of too many minutes by the eight eligible players?
Not enough Ponds, who was tentative all evening?
Around the 13 minute mark, the game shifted. The Red Storm took poor shots, missed set shots, and lost their effectiveness and composure over seven minutes. The 18-2 run featured 10 points from Martin Krampelj, and reversed a 10 point deficit into a six-point lead for the home Bluejays.
The home crowd rose with the dunks and threes from the Jays.
But the Red Storm did not go away, coming within one point. But Creighton did enough to disrupt the defense and make St. John’s take uncomfortable shots.
There were opportunities - a shot blocked that could have been a foul drawn by the Simon, a missed free throw from the reliable Marvin Clark II on the front end of the one-and-one - both with under a minute to play and the Johnnies down points.
But finally, Khyri Thomas hit a three with 16 seconds left to give the Bluejays a pale-knuckle win.
The Johnnies second half was less effective than the first, with the team shooting 1/12 from beyond the arc; but the Red Storm forced 10 turnovers. In the game, the Johnnies scored 24 points off of turnovers, forcing 17 miscues.
Marcus Foster led the Bluejays with 25 points. Khyri Thomas added 17; Martin Krampelj scored 14 and added 11 total rebounds.
St. John’s was led by Bashir Ahmed, got 14 each from Justin Simon and Tariq Owens and 12 from Shamorie Ponds.
The Johnnies are in a three-game losing streak with the next game at home vs. DePaul at 2 PM on Saturday.