Looking to enact a bit of revenge on its trans-Hudson rival, the St. John's men's basketball team jumped out to an early lead and never looked back on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, registering a wire-to-wire victory over Seton Hall, 78-70.
The Red Storm drew 18,529 to "The World's Most Famous Arena," closing out its regular season MSG slate with an average attendance of 18,103.
St. John's (20-8, 8-7 BIG EAST) moved into sole possession of third place in the BIG EAST standings with just three regular season games remaining and reached the 20-win plateau for the first time since 2014-15.
After scoring just 15 points in his last two outings combined, Shamorie Ponds authoritatively snapped out of his funk. The BIG EAST's third leading scorer poured in a game-high 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting, icing the game with a steal and slam in the closing seconds of the contest. The junior guard dished out five assists and registered five steals in 37 minutes of action.
Ponds, who has now scored 1,753 points during his collegiate tenure, moved into a tie for eighth place with George Johnson on the St. John's career scoring list and passed the late great Glen Williams in ninth (1,727).
Playing in his final regular season home game at Madison Square Garden, Marvin Clark II sank six of his 10 field goal attempts and shot 4-of-8 from long distance, finishing his Senior Night with 18 points. He also pulled down a team-high six boards and matched a career high with three steals.
As a team, the Red Storm recorded 12 steals and forced 22 Seton Hall turnovers on the evening, converting those Pirate miscues into 28 points. The Johnnies also swatted 12 Seton Hall shots, shattering their previous season high for blocks in a game of seven. Those 12 rejections were the most in a contest by the Red Storm since matching a program record with 15 against UCF at the AdvoCare Invitational in November of 2017.
Justin Simon was the third and final Johnnie to reach double figures, pouring in 10 to compliment five rebounds.
Playing without the services of Mustapha Heron, the team's second leading scorer who sat out with a sore right knee, St. John's received solid contributions from all of its available scholarship players. Bryan Trimble Jr. started and scored three points in 17 minutes while Sedee Keita tallied six points, grabbed four rebounds and matched a career high with four blocks in 25 minutes. The Red Storm's trio of freshmen all saw meaningful action. Greg Williams Jr. and Marcellus Earlington each recorded a bucket, three blocks and three rebounds apiece in the victory.
The Red Storm could not have scripted a better start, making its first five field goal tries and seven of its first 10 overall, jumping out to a 17-2 lead less than five minutes into the action. Veterans led the way during that stretch, as Ponds scored seven, Clark added six and Simon chipped in the other four. Ponds and Clark combined to connect on three of their four attempts from deep in the opening five minutes of the contest.
The Johnnies continued to build on that early edge, moving ahead by as many as 23, 28-5, on a Figueroa putback with just over 11 minutes to play in the half. From there, the Red Storm went cold, missing its next eight shot attempts and letting Seton Hall climb within 10 with just under four minutes remaining until the intermission.
With its lead down at its smallest margin in 13 minutes, St. John's held Seton Hall scoreless over the final 3:54 and closed the half on an 8-0 run to take a 38-20 advantage into the locker room.
The Pirates came out of the gate firing in the second half, cutting the St. John's lead to single digits, 40-31, with an 11-2 run. Sandro Mamukelashvili scored six for the Pirates on that early spurt.
With its advantage down to single digits for the first time since the opening two and a half minutes of the game, St. John's responded with six unanswered to kick off a 16-4 run of its own, moving ahead by 22, 57-35, on a Bryan Trimble Jr. three with 11:30 to play.
Leading by 17, 63-46, following two Ponds free throws with seven and a half to go, St. John's saw Seton Hall rattle off a 17-5 run to pull within five with 1:46 remaining in on the clock.
That was as close as the Pirates would get, as the Red Storm built its lead back to 11 down the stretch before closing out the MSG portion of its regular season with a 78-70 victory.
The Red Storm will play its final Carnesecca Arena contest of the 2018-19 campaign on Thursday night, welcoming Xavier to Queens for a 6:30 p.m. tip on FS1 and 970 AM WNYM.