Ponds scored 26 points and LoVett added 18 as St. John's rallied from a double-digit second-games half deficit to beat Oregon State 82-77 Thursday in first round of the Advocare Invitational.
"If the guards set the tone, then it sets the tone for the game," Ponds said. "So I feel like if we come out there hungry with a dog mentality, it changes the whole game."
After trailing by 10 midway through the second half, St. John's went up 69-67 with 4 minutes left on Kassoum Yakwe's rebound slam.
Marvin Clark II added 10 points, including a 3-pointer shortly after Yakwe's go-ahead basket, for St. John's (5-0), which last opened a season with five straight wins in 2009-10.
"We train to play forty minutes of pressure defense," St. John's coach Chris Mullin said. "Be active and energetic ... we feel that's going to wear down on people in the long haul."
Oregon State (2-2) got 22 points from Stephen Thompson Jr. and Ethan Thompson had 19. Both players made four 3-pointers as the Beavers hit 11 of 24 from distance.
"They're certainly a tough group," OSU coach Wayne Tinkle said of St. John's. "Their perimeter players, those guards can hawk you defensively and are really good at getting to the rim."
Stephen Thompson had 13 of his points in the first half, helping Oregon State go up 40-37. The Beavers turned it over 12 times, compared to St. John's two during the opening 20 minutes.
Oregon State finished with 21 turnovers, while St. John's had six.
Oregon sophomore forward Tres Tinkle, who received a medical redshirt year after missing 26 games due to a broken wrist in 2016-17, scored 14 points on 3 of 9 shooting. He had 20 or more points in each of his first three games.
Ponds, a sophomore, has 35 career double-digit scoring games -- with five this season.
St. John's last won a regular-season tournament in 2010, taking titles at the Great Alaska Shootout and the MSG Holiday Festival.
Oregon State: Stephen Thompson entered 1 for 15 from 3-point range. He has 109 in his career and needs 23 to break into the Beavers top-10 after going 4 for 8 Thursday.
St. John's advanced to Friday's semifinals against Missouri, which routed Long Beach State 95-58 earlier Thursday.
Oregon State plays LBSU in a consolation bracket game Friday in a rematch of last Saturday's 89-81 OSU win.