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St. John’s sweeps Marquette in a thriller, 70-69

Johnnies build a big lead, and hang on by their fingertips to knock off the Golden Eagles on the road.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In St. John’s final game of a road trip that included a winning big over Creighton and losing big to Duke, the Red Storm took on the 10th ranked Marquette Golden Eagles and pulled off the 70-69 upset.

The win — which took a last-minute layup by Shamorie Ponds to earn the lead back — improves the Johnnies to 5-5 in conference and 17-6 overall, while Marquette falls to 8-2 in conference and 19-4 overall. St. John’s returns to the Garden to face Providence on Saturday.

The last time St. John’s and Marquette met, St. John’s won by 20 points and held the Big East’s scoring leader Markus Howard (25 PPG) to 8 points.

The Red Storm came out with the same level of defensive intensity from the tip.

Marquette came into the game shooting almost 42% from deep against Big East opponents. St. John’s aggressively closed out on the shooters, covered Howard with Simon, and held the Golden Eagles to a measly 3 of 13 (23%) from beyond the arc.

The aggressiveness on defense, however, came at a price. With Bryan Trimble, Jr. out with a sprained thumb, the already-short Red Storm rotation went into the half with Mustapha Heron, Marvin Clark II, LJ Figueroa, and Greg Williams, Jr. all with 2 fouls.

On the offensive side of the ball, the ball moved well. While there were stretches where fatigue struck, with both Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon logging 20 minutes in the half, the ball moved and the Red Storm had 9 assists on 16 made field goals.

Ponds was well-covered for the half, but Justin Simon took advantage of playing the whole half by scoring 14 points (6/7 FG), dishing out a pair assists, and grabbing a pair of rebounds.

St. John’s was able to convert its aggressive defense and effective offense into a 40-30 lead going into the second half.

Early in the second half, fatigue and foul trouble started to rear its ugly head. Clark picked up an early 3rd foul, effectively shortening the rotation to six players.

With more than 11 minutes left in the game, Figueroa picked up his 3rd foul as well.

After only 1 foul in the first half, Sedee Keita picked up 3 second half fouls prior to the U8 timeout, putting him at 4 fouls.

Simon picked up his 4th foul with 6 minutes remaining.

And St. John’s only recorded 2 assists in the second half.

With the quantity of both fresh and foul-free bodies quickly dwindling, and with the stagnant offense yielding few scoring respites, Marquette began chipping away, cutting St. John’s once 15 point lead down to 1 with just under six minutes left.

With St. John’s defense both exhausted and defending cautiously, Sam Hauser knocked in the 3 to cut the lead to 1.

Even with the tide turning, St. John’s found a way, a grit, a deep reserve.

Shamorie Ponds scored 12 of the Red Storm’s last 13 points to keep pace.

With 30 seconds remaining, Sacar Anim’s three-pointer gave Marquette a 1 point lead, only for that lead to be erased by a Ponds layup - his 11th and 12th points of that stretch, and the game winner.

With 11 seconds left, Markus Howard lost his dribble and, draped by Mustapha Heron, missed the go-ahead three-point attempt.

And St. John’s left Milwaukee with a resoundingly good win.

St. John’s Red Storm

Shamorie Ponds: 28 points (9/19 FG, 1/5 3PT), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover

Justin Simon: 19 points (8/11 FG), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers

Mustapha Heron: 10 points (3/8 FG, 3/5 3PT), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover

Marquette Golden Eagles

Sam Hauser: 19 points (6/16 FG, 3/12 3PT), 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers

Markus Howard: 17 points (5/17 FG, 4/8 3PT), 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 turnovers