NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — St. John’s first loss of the year came in controversial fashion, but had many questioning if the Red Storm’s hot start was for real. Chris Mullin’s squad quieted the skeptics Tuesday night by routing No. 16 Marquette 89-69 at Carnesecca Arena.
Shamorie Ponds scored 20 of his 26 points in the first half, dominating a highly anticipated matchup between two of the nation’s top guards.
Marvin Clark II had 22 points and Mustapha Heron added all 16 of his after halftime for the Red Storm (13-1, 1-1 Big East), who snapped Marquette’s eight-game winning streak.
With leading scorer Markus Howard held to eight points on 2-for-15 shooting, the Golden Eagles (11-3, 0-1) got blown out in their conference opener. Howard entered averaging 25.1 points per game, best in the Big East and ranked fifth in the country.
Joey Hauser had 15 points to lead Marquette, which went 6 for 21 from 3-point range (28.6 percent).
The anticipated matchup between Howard and Ponds was no contest from the start. Ponds came out sizzling and scored eight points in the first 2:37, matching his total on 2-for-13 shooting in the loss at Seton Hall.
The 6-foot-1 junior from Brooklyn, the Big East preseason player of the year, then scored the final nine points of the first half for the Red Storm, including a long 3-pointer that gave them a 39-31 lead the break.
It was reminiscent of last February, when Ponds set an arena record with 44 points in an 86-78 win over Marquette.
Meanwhile, the 5-foot-11 Howard went 1 for 10 in the first half and never got going. He picked up four fouls and played only 26 minutes.
St. John’s picked fourth in the Big East preseason poll, the Red Storm are targeting their first NCAA Tournament appearance in four seasons under coach Chris Mullin. They opened 12-0 against non-conference opponents for the school’s best start since winning its first 14 games in 1982-83, Mullin’s sophomore year.
That run ended Saturday night with an excruciating loss at Seton Hall in the conference opener. Last season, St. John’s started 10-2 out of conference only to lose its first 11 Big East games — followed by consecutive wins over No. 4 Duke and on the road against No. 1 Villanova, the eventual national champion. So dating to last season, St. John’s has won its last three regular-season games against ranked opponents.
St. John’s led by 10 with 6:20 left at Seton Hall and had several chances to close it out, but got stagnant on offense and lost 76-74 on a 3-pointer by Shavar Reynolds with less than a second remaining. A steal by the Red Storm that could have sealed it in the waning seconds was negated when an official blew his whistle, believing the clock had not started on an inbounds play.
Two days later, the Big East released a statement saying the official made an error in judgment that was not correctable. Late in the game, St. John’s students who chanted “Over-rated!” at Marquette during the second half showered their own team with cheers of “Undefeated! Undefeated!”
St. John’s visits their old rival Georgetown on Saturday, when Mullin squares off against Hoyas coach Patrick Ewing once again in a story line that dates back to their Big East and NBA playing days. St. John’s has lost 13 in a row at Georgetown since a victory on Jan. 18, 2003.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)