Playing its first game of the year at "The World's Most Famous Arena," the St. John's men's basketball team pulled away from Princeton, 89-74, on Sunday afternoon to remain unbeaten on the campaign.
St. John's is now 9-0 for the first time since 1990-91 and just the third time since 1986-87. A win in the Johnnies' next game against Wagner would make the Red Storm 10-0 for the first time since tying a school record with 14-consecutive victories to start the 1982-83 campaign during Chris Mullin's sophomore season.
Leading by six at the final media timeout, the Johnnies scored the game's final nine points and held Princeton without a bucket for the closing 3:41.
Shamorie Ponds led the way for the Red Storm, scoring 26 of the team's season-high 89 points. The junior guard from Brooklyn also tallied five assists, five rebounds and four steals while shooting 11-for-18 from the floor. 18 of Ponds' 26 points came in the second half.
Ponds (1,414) continued his ascent up the St. John's all-time scoring list, passing Marcus Hatten (1,400) for 19th and pulling within five of Willie Glass (1,419) in 18th.
Five Johnnies finished in double figures for the second-straight game. LJ Figueroa registered 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting in addition to pulling down eight boards. Marvin Clark II added 13 points and eight boards while Mustapha Heron chipped in 12 and Justin Simon tallied 11 points, five rebounds and four assists.
As a team, the Johnnies shot 55.7 percent from the field, the team's second-highest conversion rate of the season.
Defensively, the Red Storm forced the Tigers (4-4) into 20 turnovers, marking the fourth time this season that the Johnnies' opponent has coughed up 20 or more possessions. St. John's also outrebounded Princeton, 38-29, on the game.
The Red Storm struggled to halt the Tigers' three-point attack in the early going, as Princeton made five of its first nine tries from distance and moved ahead by as many as four, 19-15, with just over seven minutes gone in the game.
Trailing by three, 22-19, with 11:30 to go in the half, St. John's rattled off nine-straight and 15 of the game's next 17 points, taking its first double-digit lead of the contest, 34-24, five minutes later. St. John's managed to cool off the Tigers, forcing Princeton to miss eight of its nine shot attempts during that stretch.
The Tigers responded by outscoring St. John's 14-4 over the next four and a half minutes, tying the game at 38 with just over two minutes remaining until the intermission.
The Red Storm regained its advantage late in the half thanks to an old-fashioned three-point play from Figueroa, as the hoop and the harm put the Johnnies ahead by three, 41-38, at the break.
Leading by just one, 49-48, after a Jaelin Llewellyn three-ball four minutes into the second half, the Johnnies created some separation once again. The Red Storm outscored Princeton 15-2 over the next five minutes with seven of those points coming off the lethal left hand of Ponds. The Johnnies built their lead as high as 19, 75-56, on a Ponds three-point play with 8:15 to go.
Princeton would not go quietly, making five-straight field goals and unleashing an 18-5 run to cut the St. John's lead back to six, 80-74, at the game's final media timeout.
From there, the Red Storm held Princeton without a bucket the rest of the way. The Johnnies forced the Tigers into misses on each of their final six field goal attempts, effectively sealing the victory for St. John's.
St. John's will have the week off to focus on final exams before returning to action on Sunday, Dec. 16, against Wagner at Carnesecca Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.