Entering the night, the question was which was stronger: No. 10 Marquette's play at home, or Shamorie Ponds' ability to score on the Golden Eagles, as he had done nearly at will in two previous meetings.
Ponds won out.
The St. John's point guard has now averaged 29.3 points per game in his last four outings against Marquette after a 28-point game that helped the Red Storm become the first collegiate road team to enter Fiserv Forum and leave a winner, beating Marquette, 70-69, last night.
The result might have been different, however, if Marquette (19-4, 8-2 BIG EAST) played better in the first half. MU shot just 38 percent in the first half, including 23 percent on 3-of-13 shooting from outside, in falling behind by as many as 12 in the opening period, including a 40-30 halftime deficit.
Ponds and St. John's (17-6, 5-5 BIG EAST) kept the foot on the gas into the second half, going up 15, 49-34, with 15:34 remaining. Marquette, however, did not go away. A 9-2 run, capped by three of Sam Hauser's team-high 19 points, brought Marquette within one, 56-55, with 5:53 remaining. After the Red Storm built the lead back up to six, Marquette again reduced it to one with 3:02 left on a Markus Howard three. Five Ponds free-throws would again boost the St. John's advantage to five, but threes by Hauser and Sacar Anim gave Marquette its only second-half lead in the final minute, 69-68.
In the end, though, Marquette had no answer for Ponds. The junior scored the Red Storm's final 10 points, and 15 of its final 16, including a layup with a 11.9 seconds left after his defender fell down. That gave the one-point lead back to the Red Storm, and it wouldn't let it go. Howard tried a late, step-back three to win the game for Marquette, but it fell well short. St. John's Marvin Clark II grabbed the rebound and was fouled with just 1.9 seconds remaining. With Marquette out of timeouts, Clark purposely missed his second free throw after also missing the first, leaving Hauser with only a long-distance heave, which went wide of the mark, to end the game.
Howard finished with just 17 points on 5-of-17 shooting. Hauser also had 10 rebounds to lead Marquette. Justin Simon had 19 points and joined teammate Ponds in playing the entire game for the athletic Red Storm, who have now won three of the last four games the two teams have played. Ponds has played a big role in all of those wins, including scoring 44 points in the first of them, an 89-69 victory for the Red Storm at Carnesecca Arena on Feb. 10, 2018.
Marquette's last regular-season home loss came at now-tattered Bradley Center on Feb. 3, 2018 against Providence, though it had also lost a National Invitation Tournament quarterfinal game to Penn State at the Al McGuire Center on March 20 last year. Still, this loss marked the first time MU has fallen in its new home building, and its first regular-season defeat on friendly soil in its last 17 tries, including its previous 14 this season.
Marquette faces another difficult challenge at home this weekend, as No. 14 Villanova comes to town. The scheduled start time at Fiserv Forum is 1:30 p.m. CST.
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