Dec. 8, 2017
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LOS ANGELES - After trailing one of the nation's top offensive squads by as many as 18 in the first half, the St. John's men's basketball team narrowed the deficit to just one in the waning minutes of the contest, but could not close the gap. No. 16/17 Arizona State scored the game's final 11 points to come away with an 82-70 victory and remain unbeaten on Friday night at STAPLES Center in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.
Shamorie Ponds led the way for the Red Storm (8-2) in the setback, scoring a team-high 19 points to go along with seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
For the third-straight game, St. John's was without the services of the team's second-leading scorer Marcus LoVett who was sidelined with an injury. In his absence, the Red Storm received outstanding efforts from each of their starters in the front court, as Marvin Clark II and Tariq Owens provided an unquestioned spark for St. John's.
Clark scored 13 of his career-high 18 points in the first half, shooting 7-of-13 from the floor and 4-of-7 from three-point range on the game. The Kansas City, Mo., product also matched a career-best with seven rebounds for the third time in the last four games. Owens scored 13 of his career-high 17 points in the latter stanza, making eight of his 10 field goal tries, including his first collegiate three-pointer. The BIG EAST's leading shot blocker also registered three rejections and grabbed five boards.
Justin Simon recorded six points, five rebounds and five assists, while Bashir Ahmed added seven points and eight boards for the Red Storm.
One of the nation's top offenses entering the contest, the Sun Devils (8-0) were held below their season averages for points, field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage. Arizona State ranked fourth, third, and 16th in the nation entering the game in each of those categories, respectively.
Normally a strong squad from the charity stripe, St. John's shot just 13-of-22 from the line while Arizona State made 23 of their 27 tries.
ASU made five of its first six attempts from the floor to jump out to a 16-9 lead following a De'Quon Lake dunk just over six minutes into the game.
Trailing by seven, the Johnnies responded with a 10-2 run, taking their first lead of the game, 19-18, on a Kassoum Yakwe bucket just inside the 12-minute mark of the half. Clark led the way with five points on the tear, slashing to the basket through traffic before draining a corner three.
From there, the Sun Devils rattled off a 19-3 run over the next six-plus minutes, moving ahead by 15, 37-22, with five and a half remaining until the break.
Arizona State continued to excel offensively over the remainder of the half, extending its lead to as many as 18 before the Johnnies scored the period's final five points and entered the locker room with a 12-point deficit, 46-34.
The Red Storm scored six-unanswered out of the break, extending its run to 11-0 and moving within six, 46-40, with less than two minutes gone in the half. The Sun Devils, however, responded with seven in a row to extend their lead back to 13, 53-40, on a triple less than two minutes later.
Led by a pair of authoritative dunks from Owens, St. John's whittled the Sun Devil lead down to six, 58-52, by the 12-minute media timeout. The redshirt junior threw one down on a dish from Simon to bring the Johnnies within 10 before a thunderous put-back on an Ahmed missed layup knocked the deficit down to six.
After a pair of ASU free throws pushed the lead back to eight, Owens answered with his first-career triple before Ponds nailed a pair of free throws, bringing the Johnnies within three, 60-57, with 9:21 to go.
The Sun Devils quickly built their lead back to eight, 65-57, but the Johnnies answered again, rattling off six in a row to get within two, 65-63, with 5:29 to play. Ahmed scored four of the Red Storm's six points during that stretch.
Trailing by four, 71-67, with just over three minutes remaining, Ponds scored three-straight to pull the Red Storm within one. Following a stop, the Johnnies had the ball with a chance to take their first lead of the half, but an unforced turnover was followed by a Kodi Justice three that sparked the game-ending run.
Following a week off to concentrate on final exams, the Red Storm will return to action on Sunday, Dec. 17, making its first appearance of the season at "The World's Most Famous Arena" in the Holiday Festival against Iona. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.