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St. John’s escape Legends Classic as champions, 87-86 in OT over VCU

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Behind 35 points for Shamorie Ponds on a cold-shooting night, the Red Storm work through foul trouble to win the Tourney

Wendell Cruz

A day after Shamorie Ponds carried St. John’s to a win over California with a 32 point performance, he carried the Red Storm with 35 on an off shooting night for everyone else. It was late, and it took overtime (plus some favorable calls), but St. John’s escaped with a victory against Virginia Commonwealth University for the 2018 Legends Classic title, 87-86.

First Half

Coming into the game, VCU forced turnovers on 20% or more of opponent possessions and had not been afraid to play 10 man rotations, so St. John’s needed to both avoid turnovers and win the turnover battle.

The Red Storm did so in the first half, forcing 13 turnovers while only turning the ball over 6 times.

Despite lacking the same depth that VCU displays, St. John’s still dominated on fast breaks in the first half, scoring 12 points to VCU’s four.

Shamorie Ponds found different ways to be involved in the first half. In addition to his 10 points (3/10 FG, 0/4 3PT), Ponds also dished out four assists and accumulated five steals while only turning the ball over once.

Despite overcoming areas of VCU biggest strengths, St. John’s struggled to defend the perimeter. VCU converted 7/17 from deep in the first half, as opposed to St. John’s 2/11.

St. John’s entered halftime trailing 36-31.

St. John’s found a way to stick around. Simon arrived in the second half scoring seven points in the first eight minutes, including an impressive alley-oop with a follow-up trip to the foul line.

As St. John’s began closing the gap to bring the game within two, Simon picked up his 4th foul and was forced to the benched.

Soon, Mustapha Heron tied the game up on a lay-up, meaning the final six minutes of back-and-forth basketball would determine the winner.

With just under 4 minutes remaining, Ponds picked up a cheap foul and compounded the issue by picking up a technical foul expressing his displeasure with the referee with some clapping. The resulting shots gave the Rams a three point cushion.

But Marvin Clark threw down a loud transition dunk. And with under a minute left to play, Ponds stole the ball from Marcus Evans and laid the ball up for the win. On the other side, Evans split his free throws, making one of two, and after a long inbound pass and a Marvin Clark II miss, sending the game into overtime — with St. John’s knowing that Ponds, Clark and Simon were a trio saddled with four fouls.

VCU’s Evans opened overtime with another made three putting St. John’s behind early. He and Ponds traded baskets before Heron converted two at the line to bring the game back within 1 with just under 2:30 remaining. After the Red Storm picked up a defensive stop, Ponds converted 1 of 2 from the line to tie it all up at 78.

In the final two minutes, the teams switched the lead seven times.

VCU’s Evans responded with a bucket of his own, only to be outdone by LJ Figueroa’s converting an and-1 to regain St. John’s 1-point lead.

Wendell Cruz

VCU’s Marcus Santos-Silva, VCU’s Vann, and Ponds all traded free throws to retain St. John’s 1 point lead with under 30 seconds remaining.

After Vann made 2 more free throws with under 11 seconds remaining (and with both Heron and Clark fouled out), Ponds drove the court, went to the left, put up a floater that kissed backboard and ended up all net. Evans, taking a last gasp shot, may have had his arm tickled by Ponds on the shot, but it was short... and the Red Storm had their first early-season tournament championship since 2010’s Great Alaska Shootout.

St. John’s Red Storm

Shamorie Ponds: 35 Points (11/25 FG, 1/6 3PT), 4 Rebounds, 7 Assists, 1 Turnover. Shamorie Ponds’s 67 points in two games in the Legends Classic is a Tournament record.

LJ Figueroa: 15 Points (6/10 FG, 2/4 3PT), 9 Rebounds, 2 Assists

Marvin Clark II: 10 Points (4/13 FG, 1/8 3PT), 3 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 3 Turnovers

Mikey Dixon: 10 Points (4/4 FG, 2/2 3PT), 2 Rebounds

Virginia Commonwealth University Rams

Isaac Vann: 30 Points (8/14 FG, 4/7 3PT), 11 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 3 Turnovers

De’Riante Jenkins: 14 Points (5/11 FG, 4/8 3PT), 1 Rebound, 2 Assists, 2 Turnovers

Malik Crowfield: 13 Points (5/7 FG, 3/5 3PT), 2 Rebounds, 1 Turnovers

Marcus Evans: 12 Points (4/11 FG, 1/6 3PT), 1 Assist, 6 Turnovers

Wendell Cruz