Chris Mullin and John Thompson screamed at each other and the St. John’s and Georgetown players at Madison Square Garden seemed near to blows as cheer leaders scattered and referees started issuing technical fouls and a flagrant and screamed at players to separate.
As the Madison Square Garden camera panned to Allen Iverson in the stands, the old Big East that launched ESPN seems to be back with 8:35 to go in a No. 8 vs. No. 9 conference championship opener led by St. John’s 59-55.
This is how the Big East Tournament used to be. pic.twitter.com/WA6SqBk4eV
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 9, 2017
The melee started when St. John’s Amar Alibegovic delivered a flagrant foul on Georgetown’s LJ Peak that looked like Patrick Ewing’s hammering of Mullin in his playing days. Peak responded with a dominant final run of 14 points in the final 8:35, only to have the season end in a blur of action as he desperately flung the ball in the air as he crashed to the ground and Tariq Owens deflected the shot. Other bodies crashed into each other – but this is the Big East as the referees let the players decide the game.
After the horn sounded on St. John’s 74-73 win, Mullin said he asked Thompson, “Are you going to beat me up like your Dad did?”
The official Madison Square Garden transcript shows the final question of the night, from Breitbart Sports, asked freshman Shamorie Ponds, “Shamorie, you haven’t had many come down to the last minute this year, blowing out teams like Syracuse and Marquette, and being on the bad side of a few. You haven’t seen it at the college level really. What was it like at the college level?”
“It was definitely an experience I never experienced — that moment was like nervous, nervous, nervous,” answered Ponds, who was snubbed for Big East freshman of the year earlier in the day despite being by far the top freshman in the conference and the 7th best in the country according to his 8.02 Value Add. “I mean, I’m just happy that my team got the win.”
Another reporter pushed Ponds three times to react to not being selected player of the year, but he kept his focus, “No, I just wanted to get the win (reporter follow-up, ‘No reaction?’). Not really. I just wanted to win, at the end of the day. It’s a good accolade but I just want to win. (reporter again, ‘Did you think you deserved it?’) “Personally, I think so. But it is what it is.”
Ponds scored 17, including three of seven three-pointers, to lead St. John’s while Peak finished with a game-high 24 points.
St. John’s reward for the hard fought win and near fight is to get a little sleep before a noon showdown with a rested 1-seed and defending national champion Villanova. While Value Add indicates Ponds is clearly the best freshman in the Big East, Villanova boasts the best three overall players in Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges.
Villanova won both regular season match-ups by 13 points this season.