NEW YORK (AP) — Shamorie Ponds was just fine in returning from an abdominal strain, and so is St. John’s.
Ponds scored 26 points in returning from the injury that sidelined him the final two games of the regular season and the ninth-seeded Red Storm took over in the second half to beat ninth-seeded Georgetown 88-77 in the first round of the Big East Tournament on Wednesday night.
“Right before the game I was feeling good,” said Ponds, who was 9 of 14 from the field. “It didn’t give me no pain or anything. I wasn’t paying no mind to it. I played through it.”
Having Ponds is big for St. John’s. The sophomore guard, who led the conference in scoring at 21.6, averaged more than 29 points in his last seven games before being hurt.
He was the catalyst early and got a lot of help in the second half.
Marvin Clark II scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half and the Red Storm (16-16) beat the Hoyas (15-15) in the first round for the second straight year. It also was St. John’s first win over Georgetown in three games this season and its sixth win in nine games overall.
“First half we were trying to get me looks in the post but I was kind of rushing,” Clark said. “Second half we spaced me out to the rim, but still got me some post ups. I just took my time, tried to go off of two feet, get in to their body and finish through contact.”
Justin Simon added 16 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals as the Red Storm advanced to a quarterfinal game against top-seeded Xavier on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. Tariq Owens had 13 points.
Jessie Govan had 28 points and 11 rebounds for Georgetown, but only eight points came in the second half. Marcus Derrickson added 20 points for the Hoyas, who have lost five in a row.
“It’s very disappointing,” Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing said. “But you know, it’s hard to beat a good, quality team as St. John’s three straight times. You know, they have a lot of talent on their team. They’re very well-coached. And you have to be able to play your A game if you want to beat them.”
St. John’s won this one with its shooting and defense. It shot 53 percent from the field for the game and held Georgetown to 26 percent in the second half.
Down six at the half, St. John’s took the lead for good when Owens scored in the lane to snap a 59-all tie and ignite an 8-0 run that ended with a basket and free throw by Ponds and a three-point play by Simon for a 67-59 lead with 9:11 to go.
The closest Georgetown got the rest of the way was five points.
The game was not a typical Big East postseason game. There was little defense as both teams went up and down the court with the Hoyas taking a 48-42 halftime lead with Govan scoring 20 points. Ponds had 13 for the Red Storm.
St. John’s: The Johnnies are going to be a tough out at MSG. They have won four of their last five games in the city, including a win over then-No. 4 Duke on Feb. 3.
“Xavier is one of the most physical teams, I think, in the league offensively and defensively,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “We’ll get on that a little bit tonight and do a little quick film in the morning and be ready to go.”
Georgetown: The Hoyas needed more scoring help from their three other starters. Jamorko Pickett (two points), Jonathan Mulmore (four) and Kaleb Johnson combined for six points on 1-of-11 shooting. They were averaging a combined 23.7 points.
St. John’s: Faces top-seeded Xavier in the opening quarterfinal on Thursday. The Red Storm lost both regular-season games.
Georgetown: Have to hope for an NIT bid or wait for next season. Ewing said his team would accept an NIT bid.
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