St. John's guard Shamorie Ponds celebrates after scoring against Arizona...

St. John's guard Shamorie Ponds celebrates after scoring against Arizona State during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. Credit: AP / Chris Carlson

Shamorie Ponds scored 28 points, Justin Simon had 11 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, and St. John’s beat Saint Joseph’s, 77-73, in the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase on Wednesday night in Uncasville, Connecticut.

St. John’s (10-2) is off to its best start in the Chris Mullin era.

“I’m proud of them. They played really great defense these first 12 games, which shows you the commitment to each other,” Mullin said. “I think we have a long way to go, too. We have a lot of improvements that we can make, so I think we’ve put ourselves in a great position.”

Ponds split a double-team on a drive to the basket and made an off-balance shot to put St. John’s up 73-68. Saint Joseph’s got within 73-71, but Ponds hit four straight free throws on St. John’s next two possessions to seal it.

“It was a tough one,” Ponds said. “We just had to execute down the stretch and listen to what Coach said, and just got it done.”

Bashir Ahmed added 16 points for St. John’s, which has won five of its last six contests. Ponds also had seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Shavar Newkirk scored a season-high 26 points on 11-for-20 shooting for Saint Joseph’s (5-6). Taylor Funk and James Demery each scored 15 points and Pierfrancesco Oliva grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds.

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