Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo, Matt Charboneau, and James Hawkins talk UM, MSU basketball. Later they're joined by Oakland guard Kendrick Nunn, the second highest scorer in the nation this season. Detroit News


Philadelphia – St. John’s watched a desperation heave clang off the rim and players broke into wide smiles and raised their arms in triumph. The Red Storm ran toward their reserves for joyous, leaping chest bumps that the program waited more than three decades to bust out for such an occasion.

Winless and woeful no more, the Red Storm are abruptly toppling Final Four contenders.

St. John’s took down another of the nation’s elite, and stunned No. 1 Villanova 79-75 on Wednesday night for its second win over a top-five team this week – and first over the top-ranked team in 33 years.

Shamorie Ponds scored 26 points to spark the Red Storm (12-13, 1-11 Big East) to their first conference win of the season and easily their best week since Chris Mullin was in uniform, not the coach.

Mullin played for St. John’s when it beat No. 1 Georgetown 66-65 on Jan. 26, 1985. And Mullin was on the sideline exhorting his players in the final minutes of this shocker.

St. John’s beat then-No. 4 Duke Blue Devils 81-77 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, snapping an 11-game losing streak. It was the first win for St. John’s since Dec. 20 against Saint Joseph’s.

“These are huge wins,” Mullin said. “It’s a testament to their perseverance, unselfishness with each other, their confidence.”

The Wildcats (22-2, 9-2) ended a nine-game winning streak and will surely tumble from the top of the national rankings, where they’ve spent the last five weeks at No. 1.

Jalen Brunson, a leading candidate for national player of the year, nearly rallied Villanova to victory down the stretch. He buried a jumper and scored on a fastbreak set up by Omari Spellman’s blocked shot to make it 67-63. St. John’s turned the ball over off the inbounds play and Brunson, who led the Wildcats with 28 points, made the Red Storm pay on a crashing layup that sent him to the line. He hit the free throw to pull Nova to 67-66 with 1:34 left.

St. John’s wasn’t giving this one up.

Marvin Clark II flexed his muscles toward the St. John’s bench when he was fouled on a bucket. He sank the free throw to push the Red Storm’s lead back to four.

Collin Gillespie nearly helped make it 10 straight wins for the Wildcats when he pulled them to 74-73 on a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left. But that was about the only clutch 3 of the game for the Wildcats – they missed 25 of 33 attempts.

“It was desperation time trying to find a way to steal it in the end,” Brunson said. “If we had 30 more seconds, we possibly could have got it done.”

The Red Storm held on from the free throw line for the epic victory – instead of a sad collapse.

“We’ve got a nice chunk of the season left,” Mullin said. “We can do some damage.”

The Blue Devils and Wildcats are certainly believers.

The Red Storm used just six players – and had the one that mattered most in Ponds. Ponds, a 6-foot-1 guard, scored a career-high 37 points against Villanova in early January at Madison Square Garden that led the Red Storm to the brink of an upset. In a season where the Wildcats have routinely roughed up the Big East, St. John’s only lost 78-71 and stayed tight until the final 2 minutes.

Who knew, it was just a sign of better days ahead for the Red Storm.

“It’s big for the university and it’s also big for us,” Ponds said.

The Red Storm picked up where they left off against Duke and took it to the Wildcats from the opening tip. St. John’s snapped a tie game with a 6-0 run and that gave them a 47-47 lead. Ponds hit his second 3 of the game for a 50-43 lead and they still led by 8 with 4:50 left.

Ponds had 15 points, four assists and four rebounds – plus a 3 which he failed to hit the first time against Villanova – and helped St. John’s take a 39-34 lead into halftime. St. John’s shot 56 percent from the floor and forced the Wildcats into six turnovers. Bryan Trimble Jr., who played in sparkly green sneakers that would have made Eagles fans proud, hit a 3 for a 31-29 lead.

“When they beat Duke, I said it was no surprise,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

More Top 25 

No. 2 Virginia 59, (at) Florida State 55: Devon Hall scored 17 points, Ty Jerome added 15 and Virginia rallied in the second half to beat Florida State.

Kyle Guy scored 10 of his 13 points in the final 20 minutes as the Cavaliers fought back from a 32-22 halftime deficit to remain unbeaten in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Virginia was 5 of 10 on 3-pointers in the second half and committed just one turnover.

(At) No. 7 Texas Tech 76, Iowa State 58: Texas Tech freshman Zhaire Smith scored a career-high 21 points, including a steal that led to his alley-oop slam, and the Red Raiders beat Iowa State.

After Iowa State (12-11, 3-8 Big 12) had scored seven straight points in a 77-second span to get within one point after halftime, Smith had a steal. He passed the ball on the break to Jarrett Culver, who then lobbed up the pass that resulted in Smith’s two-handed slam.

Culver added 16 points for the Red Raiders (20-4, 8-3), whose last loss was 70-52 at Iowa State on Jan. 20.

Texas A&M 81, (at) No. 8 Auburn 80: Duane Wilson made one of two free throws with four seconds left to lift the Aggies to their third straight win after squandering a 17-point lead in the second half. Freshman guard T.J. Starks scored a career-high 23 points.

Mustapha Heron’s 3-point attempt from a few feet across midcourt bounced off the rim at the buzzer, capping a wild second half and final minute for Texas A&M (16-8, 5-6 Southeastern Conference). Malik Dunbar forced a jump ball off an inbounds pass with 50 seconds left, but Auburn (21-3, 9-2) gave it right back when Wilson caused a turnover. Robert Williams scored 16 points and Tyler Davis had 15 for the Aggies. Heron led Auburn with 28 points. .

(At) No. 25 Miami 87, Wake Forest 81: Lonnie Walker IV scored 19 points to lead Miami. Walker’s 3-pointer with 5:01 remaining capped a 10-2 run and gave the Hurricanes a 66-56 lead.

Miami rebuffed a late Demon Deacons comeback bid fueled by consecutive 3s from Bryant Crawford in the last minute.

Grizzlies’ guard out

Oakland point guard Brailen Neely will miss the remainder of the season with a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee announced by head coach Greg Kampe. Neely suffered the knee injury on Feb. 2 against UIC and is expected to miss approximately eight to 12 weeks.

“This is a serious blow to our team during a season in which we have been gutted by injuries,” Kampe said. “I have never seen anything like this in my 40 years of coaching. The sad part is that Brailen was really starting to come into his own. For Brailen, this is a pothole in the road that he will get by and come back stronger next season. For our team, it is going to take some serious juggling to make up for what he brought to the table.”

Neely started at point guard for the Golden Grizzlies in 15 games and appeared in 24. He led the Horizon League in

assists (133), assists per game (5.5) and assist to turnover ratio (2.61) while also ranking inside the NCAA top-50 in those same categories.

Neely recorded his first career double-double of the season against Texas Southern, scoring 22 points plus dishing out 13 assists, the most in a single game this season among Horizon League players.

State women

(At) Ball State 91, Eastern Michigan 85: Freshman Courtnie Lewis led all scorers with a career-high-tying 29, but it was not enough for the Eagles (9-13, 5-6 MAC) overcome a short bench against the Cardinals.

Central Michigan 74, (at) Ohio 72: Presley Hudson totaled 22 points and Tinara Moore had 18 points and 15 rebounds as the Chippewas (19-3, 11-0 MAC overcame 22 turnovers to prevail over Ohio. Reyna Frost had 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Western Michigan 81, (at) Bowling Green 67: Breanna Mobley and Deja Wimby scored 19 and 18 points, respectively, to lead the Broncos (14-10, 7-5 MAC) past the Falcons. Wimby also had nine assists.