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St. John’s holds on to defeat Cal State

St. John’s freshman guard Shamorie Ponds racked up a career-high 25 points as the Red Storm grabbed a 76-70 victory over Cal State Northridge at Carnesecca Arena.
St. John’s Athletics
By Laura Amato

By the end of the St. John’s mens’ basketball team’s second-straight victory, the game had turned into the Shamorie show.

The Red Storm squeaked out a 76-70 win over Cal State Northridge at Carnesecca Arena Monday night and they did it on the shooting touch of freshman standout Shamorie Ponds.

The Brooklyn native racked up a career-high 25 points, excelling in the backcourt without the help of fellow guard Marcus LoVett who was sidelined with an ankle injury.

“I just tried to be more aggressive and be a leader,” said Ponds, who connected on 10 of his 18 attempts from the floor. “I wanted to be more vocal, get all of my teammates involved, and dig out a win.”

Just a few days removed from a convincing victory on the road over Tulane, the Red Storm’s (4-5) offense struggled a bit without LoVett in the lineup.

St. John’s led 40-36 at the break, but the Matadors refused to go down without a fight, tying the game several times throughout the second half.

“Our [offensive] flow wasn’t really there,” said St. John’s coach Chris Mullin. “We kind of grinded through the game. We never really found a good rhythm. In the first half, we made some threes but we really just kind of grinded it out.”

Cal State Northridge took a 62-61 lead with just under seven minutes in regulation, but the Red Storm defense held its own down the stretch—a much-needed performance from a St. John’s squad that has struggled to wrap up close games this season.

“That’s everything. Just like winning on the road,” Mullin said of the down-to-the-wire performance. “When it was a two-point game, I thought they did a decent job of making enough free throws, getting enough stops and doing what we needed to do to get a win.”

St. John’s rattled off a seven-point run—five of which came from the free-throw line—with four minutes left in the second half and the Red Storm continued to press the ball as time ticked down.

It was an effort that kept the squad focused in the waning minutes of the non-conference tilt, even when the Matadors made it a two-point game with 41 seconds left to play.

“We just kept going,” said Ponds, who hit a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left. “We were battling down the stretch and making sure we kept our energy levels high, which helped us grab this win.”

In addition to his double-digit point performance, Ponds also chipped in a team-high five assists and just one turnover. Bashir Ahmed added 13 points of his own, while Federico Mussini and Malik Ellision finished with 12 and 10 points each.

It was a much-needed two-game stretch for the Red Storm after the squad fell to Delaware State in embarrassing fashion on Nov. 29. Now, St. John’s turns its attention to a pair of local rivalry games—with Fordham and LIU Brooklyn—on the schedule next before opening up Big East play later this month. And, after a win like this, the Red Storm is feeling like they’re back on track.

“I think it helped bring us together,” Ponds said. “Down at Tulane, we really came together as a team and played like a team. We are going to continue to move forward with this momentum.”

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