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Nation, World Sports

St. John's tops Villanova for 1st win over No. 1 team since 1985

| Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, 9:54 p.m.
St. John's guard Shamorie Ponds reacts after his team defeated Villanova, 79-75, on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in Philadelphia.
St. John's guard Shamorie Ponds reacts after his team defeated Villanova, 79-75, on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA — St. John's took down another of the nation's elite,and stunned No. 1 Villanova, 79-75, on Wednesday night for its second win over a top-five team this week — and first over the top-ranked team in 33 years.

Shamorie Ponds scored 26 points to spark the Red Storm (12-13, 1-11 Big East) to its first conference win of the season and easily their best week since Chris Mullin was in uniform, not the coach.

Mullin played for St. John's when it beat No. 1 Georgetown, 66-65, on Jan. 26, 1985. And he was on the sideline exhorting his players in the final minutes of this shocker.

St. John's beat then-No. 4 Duke Blue Devils, 81-77, on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, snapping an 11-game losing streak. It was the first win for St. John's since Dec. 20 against Saint Joseph's.

The Wildcats (22-2, 9-2) ended a nine-game winning streak and will surely tumble from the top of the national rankings, where they've spent the last five weeks at No. 1.

Jalen Brunson, a leading candidate for national player of the year, nearly rallied Villanova to victory down the stretch. He buried a jumper and scored on a fastbreak set up by Omari Spellman's blocked shot to make it 67-63. St. John's turned the ball over off the inbounds play and Brunson, who led the Wildcats with 28 points, made the Red Storm pay on a crashing layup that sent him to the line. He hit the free throw to pull Nova to 67-66 with 1 minute, 34 seconds left.

St. John's wasn't giving this one up.

Marvin Clark II flexed his muscles toward the St. John's bench when he was fouled on a bucket. He sank the free throw to push the Red Storm's lead back to four.

Collin Gillespie nearly helped make it 10 straight wins for the Wildcats when he pulled them to 74-73 on a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left. But that was about the only clutch 3 of the game for the Wildcats — they missed 24 of 33 attempts.

The Red Storm held on from the free throw line for the epic victory — instead of a sad collapse.

The Red Storm used just six players — and had the one that mattered most. Ponds, a 6-foot-1 guard, scored a career-high 37 points against Villanova in early January at Madison Square Garden that led the Red Storm to the brink of an upset. In a season where the Wildcats have routinely roughed up the Big East, St. John's only lost 78-71 and stayed tight until the final 2 minutes.

Who knew, it was just a sign of better days ahead for the Red Storm.

The Red Storm picked up where they left off against Duke and took it to the Wildcats from the opening tip. St. John's snapped a tie game with a 6-0 run and that gave them a 47-47 lead. Ponds hit his second 3 of the game for a 50-43 lead and they still led by 8 with 4:50 left.

Ponds had 15 points, four assists and four rebounds — plus a 3 which he failed to hit the first time against Villanova — and helped St. John's take a 39-34 lead into halftime. St. John's shot 56 percent from the floor and forced the Wildcats into six turnovers. Bryan Trimble Jr., who played in sparkly green sneakers that would have made Eagles fans proud, hit a 3 for a 31-29 lead.

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