New York, N.Y. –The painful sting of the buzzer-beating three that defeated St. John’s in their first meeting with Seton Hall was clearly a primary source of motivation for the Red Storm in the second match-up of the two NYC area programs. In front of a packed Madison Square Garden audience, the Johnnies came out ultra aggressive as they jumped out to a 28-5 lead to start the game. Shamorie Ponds led the attack by nailing a three to start the game and following it up with a mid-range jump shot. His assertive mindset set a tone that indicated no intention of allowing another loss to their Big East rival as St. John’s prevailed 78-70.
The first half onslaught ended with a 38-20 St. John’s lead. As in a lot of games, momentum can shift like a pendulum. This was obviously the hope and goal as Seton Hall entered into the second half determined to fight back from their deep first half hole. It didn’t look promising however as St. John’s’ dominance continued into the first ten minutes of the second half. It wasn’t until the 11:10 mark in the second half, as Seton Hall stared at their 20 point deficit and realized it was now or never to make a final push. Their response was gradual as Myles Powell captained their comeback to cut the deficit to single digits. At the 1:46 mark, the score was 68-63 and it miraculously appeared as though Seton Hall cold possibly pull off the comeback. It was at this juncture, however, when they needed to execute the most that they failed to do so. It became evident to the Red Storm that they were in serious danger of allowing yet another comeback loss to Seton Hall. They refused to allow this to happen as they tightened up their defense and got crucial stops and steals to close out the contest with the eight-point victory.
Ponds lead all scorers with 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field. More than anything else, what impressed the most about Ponds’ performance was his leadership and composure when it mattered most in this game. This demonstrated growth in emotional maturity is what will elevate his status as an NBA prospect. Committing only two turnovers to his five assists in 37 minutes is remarkable for such a high intensity match up. On the defensive side, he showed up more than ever by consistently showcasing urgency as he collected five steals, including one when it mattered most to ice the game as he finished with an emphatic dunk. The Johnnies needed Ponds to embrace additional leadership capacity in this contest as fellow leader Mustapha Heron sat out with a knee issue. Delivering on this challenge speaks volumes about his courage and grit.
The rivalry between St. John’s and Seton Hall is as good as it gets in college basketball and they have now split two hard fought contests. Powell did everything he could for Seton Hall as he finished with 26 points but the lack of offensive support from his teammates continues to ail their team. It is clear that the possibility of these two teams meeting again in the Big East tournament will promise to be as heated and exciting a game as any basketball fan could ever hope for.