NEW YORK — Shamorie Ponds scored 33 points and St. John’s stunned No. 4 Duke 81-77 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, snapping an 11-game losing streak and handing the suddenly suspect Blue Devils their second loss in eight days.
Bashir Ahmed added 19 points and Tariq Owens had 17 for the Red Storm (11-13), who overcame an early 10-point deficit and fought off Duke’s heralded freshmen down the stretch in their biggest win under third-year coach Chris Mullin.
St. John’s was playing the second of three straight games against top-6 opponents in a span of nine days. Next up, a visit to No. 1 Villanova on Wednesday night.
Gary Trent Jr. had 22 points for the Blue Devils (19-4), who perhaps got caught looking ahead to their first matchup of the season with bitter rival North Carolina on Thursday night. Freshman sensation Marvin Bagley III scored 19 but sat out a significant chunk of the second half with four fouls.
Outhustled all afternoon, Duke was coming off an easy win over Notre Dame that followed a disappointing 65-63 loss to No. 2 Virginia at home last weekend.
Winless in 11 Big East games this season, the Red Storm improved to 11-2 in nonconference play. They led by 11 with 6½ minutes left before Duke stormed back and took a 73-72 advantage on Trent’s two free throws with 1:35 to play, its first lead since early in the second half.
Fans of both schools were on their feet in the final minute.
Ponds, who also grabbed seven rebounds in his second consecutive 30-point game, put St. John’s back in front with a driving layup and drained a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 77-73 with 40 seconds left.
Grayson Allen’s only 3 seconds later trimmed the margin to one, but Owens hit two free throws with 32.2 seconds to go.
Bagley made one of two foul shots with 20.4 seconds left and Ponds did the same to make it 80-77 with 17.5 seconds to go. Allen missed a 3 at the other end and Owens grabbed the rebound before sinking one of two free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining to seal it as Ponds waved his arms, spurring on the sellout crowd of 19,812.
It was the first meeting between the teams since Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski got his 1,000th career win with a 77-68 victory at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 25, 2015.
Duke: Fell to 34-19 at the Garden, including 29-11 under Coach K. … The Blue Devils will be back in New York City next month for the ACC Tournament across the river at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. … Duke leads the all-time series 16-7.
St. John’s: After three losses this season to top-10 opponents, the Red Storm finally broke through. They have played the fifth-toughest schedule in the country this season according to the NCAA, the school said.
The matchup between two of the top-10 winningest programs in Division I history was played in tribute to the late Howard Garfinkel, who ran the famous Five-Star Basketball Camp from 1966-2008, attracting many of the game’s greatest players before they blossomed in college. The logo at center court read “The Garf.”
Duke: Plays at North Carolina on Thursday night, the first of two regular-season meetings between the longtime rivals.
St. John’s: In their first meeting with top-ranked Villanova this season, the Red Storm lost 78-71 on Jan. 13 at Madison Square Garden.