ASU men's basketball fends off St. John's 82-70

Romello White's efficient performance was enough to give ASU the edge

Staples Center, Los Angeles – After losing an 18-point lead in the first half, ASU showcased resiliency and maturation to knock off a physical St. John's (8-2) team to remain one of nine teams undefeated in the country. 

The Red Storm had no answer for ASU forward Romello White, as he finished the night with 22 points on 8-for-10 shooting and nine rebounds to help fend off St. John's, 82-70, in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. 

Head coach Bobby Hurley said this was yet another learning experience for his team and they will look to build on it going into their game against No. 2 Kansas on Sunday.

“It was terrific that we gutted it out and we got off to a good start. I felt there was an opportunity late in the second half, if we made a few more plays on offense to maybe make it a different game and not the struggle that it became,” Hurley said. “So hopefully moving forward we finish halves better. We talk about doing that and we probably allowed it to be close than it should’ve had." 

Senior guard Shannon Evans II added 18 points for the Sun Devils (8-0), while senior forward Kodi Justice used clutch shooting to finish the night with 15 points of his own. 

St. John’s failed to back down, however, as they were led by redshirt junior forward Marvin Clark II who had 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field. The Red Storm shot 39.1 percent as a team and forced 14 turnovers with their physicality – something head coach Chris Mullin said his team focused on in the second half. 

 St. John's was without their second leading scorer in redshirt sophomore guard Marcus LoVett but found their silver lining in Friday's game based on how well they competed against one of the top scoring teams in the country.

“It’s definitely a plus, but at the same time whoever we got going into a game that’s who we are riding with,” Clark II said. “We are confident in every one of us, and he’s (LoVett) is confident in us. He called us and gave us some praise and love before the game."

A 13-0 run over three minutes, anchored by a corner three and inside floater by Justice, gave ASU a 37-22 lead with 5:31 to go in the first half. Minutes later, the senior forward knocked down another three, followed by a free throw from junior forward De’Quon Lake to give ASU its biggest lead of the half, 44-26, with a little over three minutes left. 

The Sun Devils shot 50 percent from beyond the arc, three of them coming from redshirt freshman forward Vitaliy Shibel, who is averaging a little over two points per game. Coming into tonight's matchup, Shibel was 3-for-17 from long distance. 

Although down by 18 at one point, St. John’s used a quick 8-2 run in the last five minutes of the first half to bring them within 12. They showcased their defensive aggressiveness, however, as they held ASU scoreless the last 3:24 of the half. 

The Red Storm flipped the switch in the second half, coming within one point of the Sun Devils. 

Redshirt junior forward Tariq Owens knocked down a three off a screen-and-pop to bring St. John's within five –60-55 – with 9:40 to go. He finished the game with 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field. 

“It’s the first really good game he’s had offensively, he’s always good on defense,” Mullin said. “He’s one of the smartest IQ guys we have, communicates well, he’s got nice skill and it's nice seeing him put that together.” 

After ASU freshman guard Remy Martin knocked down two free throws to put ASU up 71-67, St John's sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds answered with a free throw and a layup off a steal to bring the Red Storm within one with 2:41 to go. 

Justice, despite only scoring five points in the second half, knocked down a three to put ASU up by four a possession later, followed by a layup from White with 1:23 left to extend ASU’s lead, 76-70. That was the closest the St. John's came, as ASU knocked down its free throws to ice the game. 

“Kodi’s three was huge and a momentum shot, he’s got a nat for making big shots and he wants the moment and he knocked it in there,” Hurley said. “I thought Remy’s pass to Romello and a great finish (by White) was also a critical play.”  

Up Next: 

Non-conference game 

No. 16 ASU @ No. 2 Kansas 

Sunday, Dec. 10 at 12:00 p.m. MT

TV: ESPN


Reach the reporter at fcorral1@asu.edu or follow @felipecorraljr on Twitter.  

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