Arizona State dispatches St. Johns in First Four game
DAYTON, Ohio — Luguentz Dort overcame a hard foul and a leg injury, scored 21 points and led Arizona State to a long-awaited NCAA Tournament victory Wednesday night, 74-65, over St. John’s in the First Four.
The 11th-seeded Sun Devils (23-10) will play Mid-American Conference champion Buffalo on Friday in the West Region, coming off their first NCAA Tournament win in 10 years.
Arizona State also provided a Pac-12 breakthrough: the conference’s first NCAA Tournament win in two years.
The Pac-12 was 0-3 in the tournament last season, with two teams — Arizona State and UCLA — falling in the First Four. Arizona then got knocked out in the round of 64.
The Pac-12 got three teams in again this year, with Oregon and Washington joining the Sun Devils.
St. John’s (21-13) was the last team picked for the tournament, sneaking in despite a late-season fade. The Red Storm wound up one of the first ones out.
Shamorie Ponds scored 25 points for St. John’s, which hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2000. The Red Storm never led Wednesday.
Arizona State’s physical defense brought the Red Storm to a halt. St. John’s missed 17 of its first 23 shots as the Sun Devils built an 18-point lead. A technical foul on coach Bobby Hurley as he argued over a blocking foul with 25 seconds left in the half helped St. John’s trim the deficit to 38-25.
Ponds had a steal and dunk as St. John’s cut the lead to 40-33 early in the second half while Dort was on the bench getting his lower right leg treated. The freshman guard landed hard after extending for a rebound and getting fouled. Mustapha Heron was called for a flagrant foul.
Dort returned and hit a pair of free throws and a layup that blunted St. John’s comeback. His fast-break layup rebuilt the lead to 16 points.
Ponds hit a 3-pointer as St. John’s made a final surge, cutting it to 62-55 with 3 minutes, 58 seconds left. Dort made a pair of free throws that helped finish it.
The Red Storm opened the season with 12 wins, their best start since the 1982-83 season but faded at the end, losing five of its last six.
Hurley won national titles with Duke in 1991-92 and has shown his team video of the Final Four when he thought it could use a boost. In his fourth season at Arizona State, he has led the Sun Devils to their first back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances since 1980-81.
Arizona State heads to Tulsa, hoping to win two games in in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994.