Nebraska drops Gavitt Games matchup at St. John's, 79-56

Anthony Grupposo - USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska drops Gavitt Games matchup at St. John's, 79-56

NEW YORK (AP) Shamorie Ponds scored 22 points, Justin Simon had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and St. John’s pulled away early from Nebraska for a 79-56 victory on Thursday night.

Bashir Ahmed scored 15 points and Marcus LoVett added 13 with three assists for St. John’s (3-0), which outrebounded Nebraska 50-39 and outscored them 44-16 in the paint. Ponds had seven rebounds and five assists, and scored 20-plus for the second straight game. Simon added four steals in recording his second straight double-double.

“This was our biggest test to date on this early season, and it was definitely going to pose some huge challenge – particularly on things that we haven’t done well in game situations, which are rebounding and defensive play,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “We did a good job on both, but I think the most important thing is that tonight was really the first time that I saw our defensive alertness, quickness, and athleticism really showed.”

Marvin Clark II put the Red Storm up for good at 6-5 and it was 37-24 at halftime behind Ponds’ 14 points. Nebraska closed to 40-32 on Glynn Watson Jr.’s 3 pointer early in the second half, but St. John steadily pulled away to a 13-point lead on 3-pointers by LoVett, Ahmed and Clark.

James Palmer Jr. scored 13 points and Isaac Copeland grabbed seven rebounds for the Cornhuskers (2-1).

“The only good thing about basketball tonight is that we get the chance to strap it on again in three days,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “We didn’t rise to the occasion tonight and that’s disappointing, but it’s early in the year we have a lot of improvement ahead of us and I look forward to getting to it as soon as we can.”

BIG PICTURE

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers were unable to slow down the Red Strom backcourt after closing to within eight in the opening minute of the second half. … The Huskers shot just 28 percent from the floor, including 6 of 26 from 3-point range, and committed 16 turnovers.

St. John’s: The Red Storm had their most dominant effort of the season against their first high-major opponent at Carnesecca Arena. St. John’s opened with wins against New Orleans and Central Connecticut State.

“We knew coming into this game it was going to be a big one for our whole team and we wanted to come out with a lot of energy and I feel like we started and finished the game like that,” LoVett said.

UP NEXT

Nebraska hosts North Dakota on Sunday.

St. John’s closes out a four-game homestand on Monday night against Division II Molloy.

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