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St. John’s falls to Xavier in Big East Tournament quarterfinals

St. John's guard Justin Simon brings the ball

St. John's guard Justin Simon brings the ball up court against Xavier during the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, March 8, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

St. John’s had some Cinderella moments this season, but the clock struck 12 in Thursday’s noon game against top- seeded Xavier in a Big East Tournament quarterfinal.

It also might have been the end of Shamorie Ponds’ college basketball career. The sophomore point guard did not rule out making himself eligible for the NBA Draft.

After some magnificent performances late in the season, it did not seem like a game to go out on for Ponds, who finished with 15 points in the Red Storm’s 88-60 loss. He shot 4-for-14 from the floor and 0-for-7 on three-point attempts. Marvin Clark II led St. John’s with 18 points.

“They’re a great team. They just kicked our butts today,’’ Ponds said of third-ranked Xavier (28-4), a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Xavier will play Providence (20-12) in a semifinal on Friday. The Friars defeated Creighton, 72-68, in overtime.

“I was like pretty tired,’’ Ponds said. Returning from an abdominal strain, he had scored 26 against Georgetown in the 7 p.m. game Wednesday. “That’s a big turnaround, probably only got like six, seven hours of sleep,” he said. “I had no energy.’’

Red Storm coach Chris Mullin said, “The turnaround is what it is . . . what you get for coming in ninth.’’

St. John’s (16-17) could receive some consideration for an NIT berth or another postseason tournament, but Ponds was more focused on what had just transpired. He was noncommittal about his future. Asked about the draft, he said, “No comment.’’ Asked if he thinks he is NBA-ready, he responded, “No comment.’’

When pressed further, Ponds said, “Me and my family is going to sit down and go over everything.’’

The highlights of the season — after an 0-11 start in conference play — essentially came down to victories over then-No. 4 Duke and, a few days later, then-No. 1 Villanova. The Red Storm played well in two regular-season losses to Xavier, but this time it was quite different.

Xavier led 33-29 at the half, with Justin Simon keeping St. John ’s close by scoring 12 of his 14 points. But Xavier went on a 15-7 run to go ahead by 13 with 14:54 left, and it got worse from there.

Trevon Bluiett scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half for Xavier. Kaiser Gates had 16 points and Kerem Kanter 12. Xavier outrebounded the Red Storm 42-30 and held St. John’s to 35.6 percent shooting.

The game ended with some pushing and words exchanged on the handshake line.

A published report said some St. John’s players tried to enter the Xavier locker room after the game. No players were identified.

A spokesman for the Big East said it was reviewing footage from the end of the game and Xavier’s locker room.

Xavier coach Chris Mack, interviewed on FS1, said of St. John’s, “Kids kept talking to our guys. You know, we pushed our guys away, man. It’s not right.’’

Mack later said in a news conference, “I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus. Couple of guys didn’t want to shake hands. But it was quickly squelched.’’

Mullin said he did not see the scuffle.

New York Sports