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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski praises Shamorie Ponds and his 33 points

St. John's guard Bashir Ahmed, left, and guard

St. John's guard Bashir Ahmed, left, and guard Shamorie Ponds react against Duke during an NCAA men's basketball game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Duke coach Mike Krzy zewski watched plenty of Shamorie Ponds on video in preparing his fourth-ranked Blue Devils to face St. John’s on Saturday. The impression he got was that “Ponds was really as good a guard offensively as we’ve played against.” And he got an in-person eyeful as the Red Storm pulled off an 81-77 upset at the Garden and ended its 11-game losing streak.

In his fifth game with at least 30 points this season, Ponds scored 33 — 24 in the second half — and shot 12-for-23 to go with seven rebounds, four steals and three assists. He was 4-for-8 from three-point range. That came on the heels of a 31-point outing in a loss to No. 6 Xavier on Tuesday.

“He had it going tonight,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “He had a nice feel and was moving really well. Not just scoring, he threw some nice passes and was both a scorer and playmaker.”

Said Krzyzewski, “They were the better team today. Ponds was terrific.”

Ponds had nine points in the first half, which ended with Duke up 39-32. He scored eight straight Storm points in the middle of a 12-2 burst to open the second half.

He also made the most important shot in the game. Ahead by one with 43 seconds left in the game, St. John’s had five seconds left on the shot clock when Mullin called a timeout. Ponds then sank a tough three-pointer as the shot clock expired for a 77-73 lead with 38 seconds to play. Mullin said the execution on the play was “perfect.”

“Shot clock was winding down. Coach wanted me to curl off a screen and take the shot,” Ponds said. “I was confident taking it and it went in.”

Krzyzewski called it a “huge shot.” Mullin called it “the biggest play of the game.”

Ponds said a win like this might be only the beginning.

“We can’t stop here,” he said. “We have to keep pushing this.”

Notes & quotes: Sophomore guard Marcus LoVett is still on scholarship and enrolled at St. John’s, Mullin said. LoVett was the Red Storm’s second-leading scorer with a 14.9-point average when he suffered a season-ending knee injury Nov. 26. He sat on the Storm bench at games for several weeks, but that became less frequent in January. LoVett sat in the stands for Saturday’s win over Duke. Asked if he will play for St. John’s next season, he replied that he is “not sure.” Said Mullin, “The first thing he’s got to do is figure out his medical situation. Then everything will fall into place there. It’s got to get taken care of and things will fall the way they fall.”

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