St. John’s fell victim to a surging Arizona State program its last time out and must put that performance in the rear-view mirror if it hopes to knock off visiting Iona on Sunday. The undefeated Sun Devils beat the Red Storm 82-70 on Dec. 8, giving St. John’s over a week to prepare for in-state rival Iona.
Red Storm leading scorer Shamorie Ponds had 19 points against Arizona State but struggled with his shooting, as did fellow guards Bashir Ahmed and Justin Simon. The trio combined to shoot 9-of-37 and aims for an improved effort against an Iona team that has played one notable opponent so far, losing to Syracuse last month 71-62. Gaels coach Tim Cluess played at St. John’s from 1979-81 and knows that this game will pose a major challenge for his team. “Yeah, obviously anytime you get a win over a power-conference team it’s great for your résumé, and we’re just fortunate that we’re getting a chance to play them,” Cluess told reporters. “It’s a great local rivalry and we’ll have a nice buzz to the game. We just want to go out and compete our hardest.”
TV: 4:30 p.m. Fox Sports 1
ABOUT IONA (5-4): The Gaels have won four games in a row, including an 83-67 win over Yale their last time out as E.J. Crawford scored a career-high 24 points to lead the way. Deyshonee Much chipped in 19 points - a season high for the senior guard - and combined with Crawford to make seven 3-pointers as Iona finished 11-of-23 from behind the arc. The other three starters for the Gaels had quiet nights, combining for 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting, although four players had a productive day off the bench.
ABOUT ST. JOHN’S (8-2): The Red Storm were able to stay close with Arizona State thanks to their starting forwards, Marvin Clark II and Tariq Owens, who combined for 35 points on 15-of-23 shooting. In addition to the struggles from its guards, St. John’s also received nothing from its bench - three total points on 1-of-4 shooting with three turnovers and 10 fouls. On the season, the team’s leading scorer is Ponds (20.1), while Marcus LoVett (14.9) is questionable for Sunday’s affair due to a sprained knee.
1. The Red Storm are 5-0 at home this season.
2. When allowing 77 points or fewer, St. John’s is 8-0. The team is 0-2 when giving up 82 points or more.
3. Ponds, who shot 37.5 percent from 3-point range last season, is struggling to the tune of 21.9 percent in 2017-18.
PREDICTION: St. John’s 73, Iona 70