NEW YORK – Junior guard Shamorie Ponds scored 18 points and added seven assists to help St. John’s post an 82-74 victory over DePaul in the first round of the Big East tournament on Wednesday night. The Johnnies will play Marquette on Thursday evening at 7pm.
Junior guard Mustapha Heron added 18 points and seven rebounds and junior guard Justin Simon had 18 points and six rebounds as the seventh-seeded Red Storm (21-11) advance to face second-seeded Marquette in the Big East quarterfinals. St. John’s won both regular-season meetings against Marquette.
Sophomore forward LJ Figueroa scored 14 points and senior forward Marvin Clark II added 10 as St. John’s ended a three-game slide.
Senior guard Eli Cain scored 23 points for the 10th-seeded Blue Demons (15-15). Sophomore guard Devin Gage tallied 19 points and senior Max Strus added 14.
Sophomore forward Jaylen Butz collected 14 rebounds for DePaul, which owned a 40-30 edge on the boards.
The Red Storm shot 46.3 percent from the field, including 7 of 22 from 3-point range.
The Blue Demons shot 43.1 percent and were just 4 of 20 from behind the arc.
DePaul crept within 65-57 on a layup by sophomore forward Paul Reed with 8:43 remaining before the Red Storm halted that charge with nine straight points.
Ponds drained a 3-pointer, Simon and Figueroa delivered dunks and sophomore forward Sedee Keita scored on a layup to give St. John’s a 74-57 edge with 5:51 remaining en route to closing out the win.
The Red Storm opened up a 58-46 lead earlier in the half on Ponds’ three-point play with 12:31 left.
Simon scored 12 first-half points as St. John’s held a 39-35 lead at the break.
Cain scored 16 points to keep the Blue Demons close.
Clark made a 3-pointer to give the Red Storm a 16-6 lead with 13:37 left before DePaul erupted on a 12-2 run. Strus converted a four-point play to cap it and knot the score at 18 with 10:33 remaining.
“Coming into the Big East tournament, my biggest message to them is to come back mentally and physically fresh. It’s a new season. That should re-energize us. I thought they did a good job tonight on doing that,” said St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin.
Mullin was coaching a day after his brother Roddy’s funeral.
–Field Level Media