Lowly St. John’s stuns No. 1 ’Nova

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.

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