NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- St. John's used a 19-4 out fo the halftime break on the way to a 69-59 win against the Iona College men's basketball team this afternoon during the MSG Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden. It was the first meeting between the two programs in 22 seasons.
With the halftime score tied at 25, the Red Storm (9-2) jumped out a 15-point lead at 44-29 nearly six minutes into the second half. St. John's grew the lead to 20 points three minutes later before the Maroon & Gold (5-5) were able to cut the deficit to seven points following a Rickey McGill jumper with 5:10 remaining. However, seven straight points for the Red Storm pushed the lead to 14 points with just three minutes remaining.
Despite the last minute effort from Iona to bring the margin back to single digits, St. John's was able to close out the victory in the final minute with a pair of free throws from Bashir Ahmed. The Queens program shot 16-for-18 (88.9 percent) from the free throw line in the second period while also improving to 42.4 percent (14-for-33) from the floor after a 32.1 percent (9-for-28) showing in the opening half.
Deyshonee Much led the scoring effort for Iona with 15 points, including four 3-pointers, to go with five rebounds. E.J. Crawford added 12 points, five rebounds and two steals while Roland Griffin came off the bench for a season-high 11 points in addition to matching a season-high of eight rebounds.
All five starters reached double-figures for St. John's on the afternoon, led by 16 points from Shamorie Ponds who also added five rebounds and four steals and shot 8-for-8 from the free throw line. Justin Simon netted 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals while Tariq Owens contributed 12 points, six rebounds and six of the team's 10 blocks.
The Gaels opened the game with a pair of 3-pointers from McGill and Zach Lewis to open a 6-2 advantage before an 8-0 run gave the Red Storm the lead. St. John's built an advantage as large as eight points in the opening half at 21-13 before Iona closed out the half on a 12-4 run to go into the break tied at 25. Coming out of halftime, St. John's scored the first seven points as part of the 19-4 run used to build a lead towards the victory.
Iona plays the second of five straight road games on Tuesday with a trip to Holy Cross in Worcester, MA for a 7 pm start.