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Ponds scores 26, St. John's upsets No. 13 Butler 76-73

NEW YORK -- The losses to Delaware State and LIU Brooklyn seem long ago all of a sudden.

The talk around St. John's is all about the last two games -- a record-setting win at Syracuse and Thursday night's 76-73 upset of No. 13 Butler in the Big East opener for both teams.

"We haven't backed good games up consistently and that is a correlation to our inexperience," Red Storm coach Chris Mullin said.

Well, now they've backed one up -- and freshman Shamorie Ponds was the star. He finished with 26 points, including four free throws in the final 9.1 seconds, after St. John's took its first lead of the second half 5 seconds earlier.

"I was confident going to the line to make those free throws," Ponds said.

Mullin, one of the most clutch free throw shooters in St. John's history, felt the same way.

"He's a really phenomenal player but he also has that personality and demeanor on and off the court. He doesn't show a lot of emotion, but he's a competitor," Mullin said. "I had no doubt he would make them."

Butler had one last chance to tie but Kelan Martin's heave from halfcourt bounced off the rim at the buzzer.

"They made more plays down the stretch than we did," Bulldogs coach Chris Holtmann said. "We're certainly disappointed in our approach. Obviously, we can get better."

The Red Storm (7-7), coming off a 33-point win at Syracuse -- the Orange's worst loss ever in the Carrier Dome -- stayed close with the Bulldogs (11-2) and finally took a lead at 72-71 on a free throw by Malik Ellison with 14.1 seconds left.

Butler took a 65-58 lead with 7:57 to go but unlike in several other games this season, the Red Storm didn't fold.

"We just tried to stay together and stay poised when they took that lead," Ponds said. "We stayed together and fortunately came out with the win."

Bashir Ahmed added 19 points for the Red Storm, who had lost their last four Big East openers.

"That definitely gave us confidence," Ahmed said of the Syracuse win. "I felt that helped us and we came in with more confidence. ... A lot of people are sleeping on us and we woke them up."

Tyler Wideman had 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting for the Bulldogs, who had won four straight over the Red Storm. Martin scored 13.

"Our defensive approach mirrored ours in general," Holtmann said. "We had an immature approach to the game and didn't provide enough resistance for them. We weren't nearly tough enough and when that happens, this is what happens."

BIG PICTURE

Butler: The Bulldogs had their first game of the season with two 20-point scorers in the win over Vermont. Andrew Chrabascz had 28 points and Martin had 21. ... Butler is 27-0 under Holtmann when scoring 80 or more points. ... Butler's turnover margin of plus-5 leads the Big East and is 15th nationally. The Bulldogs came in averaging 9.9 turnovers, fifth in Division I. They had 13 on Thursday and forced St. John's into 16. ... Chrabascz, a 6-foot-7 senior, is second on the team in scoring (12.7), rebounding (5.0) and assists (34). His 52 percent from 3-point range is third in the Big East. He was 2 for 9 Thursday, including 0 for 3 from 3-point range. He finished with four points, five rebounds and four assists.

St. John's: Ponds was the Big East and national freshman of the week (USBWA) after getting 21 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals in the win over Syracuse. ... St. John's came into the game first in the Big East and ninth in Division I in 3-pointers made per game at 10.5. The team was 4 of 16 against Butler. ... The Red Storm entered third in Division I with 91 blocks and second in the nation at 7.0 per game. They had six against Butler. Tariq Owens and Kassoum Yakwe are first and second in the conference in blocks. They both had two on Thursday.

BIG WIN

This was St. John's best win over a ranked team in Carnesecca Arena (it was Alumni Hall in those days) since the ninth-ranked Redmen beat No. 13 Syracuse on Feb. 23, 1983. Mullin had 19 points in that game.

UP NEXT

Butler: The Bulldogs host Providence on New Year's Day and then No. 1 Villanova on Jan. 4.

St. John's: The Red Storm face DePaul on New Year's Day, the start of a stretch with three of four games on the road.

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