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Ponds Shoots St. John’s to Victory in DC

Shamorie Ponds scores a season-high 37 points as Johnnies erase 5-point deficit with less than a minute remaining.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Georgetown Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that’s certainly a way to grab your first win in Washington, DC since 2003.

The St. John’s Red Storm (14-1, 2-1 Big East) came back from a double-digit second-half deficit to defeat the Georgetown Hoyas (11-4, 1-1 Big East), 97-94, on Saturday afternoon. Shamorie Ponds led the Johnnies with a season-high 37 points on 11-of-21 shooting, including 6-of-10 from deep and 9-of-12 from the free-throw line. Five Hoyas scored double figures, including Jessie Govan, who scored a team-high 25 points.

Trey Mourning (concussion) and Mac McClung (sprained ankle) were out of commission for the fourth- and third-consecutive games, respectively. Josh LeBlanc and Greg Malinowski started in their places for Georgetown.

The opening 12 minutes belonged squarely to the Hoyas, who jumped out to a small lead at the first media timeout thanks to four quick points by Josh LeBlanc. After the first media timeout, Georgetown looked even more comfortable on the offensive end as James Akinjo drilled a three-pointer before Govan scored five-straight points. Kaleb Johnson added a layup and Jahvon Blair hit his first three-point attempt of the night to put Georgetown firmly in the driver’s seat, leading 22-11 after ten minutes. Blair added four points before the next media timeout, which saw the Hoyas lead 28-17.

But the Red Storm answered triumphantly in the final eight minutes of the half. LJ Figueroal started the comeback effort with a transition dunk. Several Georgetown turnovers led to easy buckets for St. John’s on the other end. Ponds scored eight of his 16 first half points during this stretch, including a three-pointer with 1:17 remaining that gave St. John’s its largest lead of the half, 42-37. Govan connected on a layup attempt just before the horn, trimming the Red Storm’s lead to just three at the intermission.

The second half was a back-and-forth affair, with the teams exchanging baskets in the opening minutes. Greg Malinowski hit a three-pointer on back-to-back possessions early on, but Figueroa responded with a timely dunk. The lead changed seven times during the half, which also featured seven ties. Govan hit a mid-range jumper with 12:10 remaining that restored Georgetown’s lead, which the team would hold for the following seven minutes. The lead ballooned to as many as eight after a three-pointer by Jagan Mosely midway through the half. Ponds responded each time it seemed the Hoyas would take firm control, scoring 18 points in the half.

The final five minutes were among the most chaotic of the season for both teams. Justin Simon connected on a jumper to give St. John’s a one-point lead with 5:03 remaining, but Akinjo and Jamorko Pickett responded with made free throws and a clutch three-pointer, respectively. Georgetown led by five with less than a minute remaining after Govan hit a pair of free throws, but Mustapha Heron quickly responded with a layup. Then, on the Hoyas’ penultimate possession, Govan found Pickett cutting through the paint for what seemed to be an open dunk opportunity, but Heron fouled Pickett, forcing a miss and free throws. Pickett split his attempts before Ponds hit 2-of-2 free throws just three seconds later. Blair turned it over when the Hoyas attempted to inbound the ball before fouling Figueroal, who hit 2-of-2 free throws as well, tying the game. Georgetown’s final possession resulted in a double-clutch attempt by Blair that missed.

The difference in moods was obvious, as the Johnnies excitedly rushed to their bench in jubilation while the Hoyas, appearing stunned, walked toward their bench. That Red Storm energy translated into early overtime success, as two alley-oops and a three-pointer saw St. John’s take an eight-point lead within two minutes. Govan responded with an and-one three-pointer on the Hoyas’ next possession, making it’s a 94-90 game with 2:28 remaining. Georgetown cut the lead to just two points with 25 seconds remaining after Malinowski hit 2-of-2 free throws. The Hoyas fouled Ponds to stop the clock, and the junior split the pair to give Georgetown a glimmer of hope. But the hosts couldn’t connect on either of their two three-point attempts at the end of the period, and St. John’s secured its first win in the nation’s capital since 2003.

Ponds’ 37-point performance was just his second-ever 30+ point outburst in a true road game in his career, with the other also coming at Georgetown last season. The Red Storm has now won 14 of its first 15 for the first time since 1985-86.

Both teams hit the road for their next game, with St. John’s traveling to Villanova on Jan. 8 and Georgetown heading to Xavier the following day.