Mullin, Ewing Renew Rivalry When St. John’s Visits Georgetown Saturday

(Mullin and Ewing at Big East Media Day in October – Photo by Jason Schott)

St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin and Georgetown Head Coach Patrick Ewing renew the rivalry that began in their playing days when the Red Storm visit Washington, DC, on Saturday afternoon.

St. John’s is 13-1 overall on the season and 1-1 in Big East play after a stirring 89-69 win over Marquette on Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena.

Georgetown is also off to a hot start this season, as they are 11-3 overall, and they won their Big East Conference opener on Wednesday night on the road at Butler, 84-76.

They’re courageous,” Mullin said of Georgetown. “They play aggressive. They’re much like Georgetown teams of the past. We’re going to have to keep playing better and better as each game goes along. It’s only going to get tougher as we go along.”

On the how the players and fans treat the rivalry with Georgetown, Mullin said, “I can speak for myself. I don’t know about the people, but it’s always the ultimate respect. It was always a huge, heated rivalry. Intense. I probably would say it’s a healthy hatred, in a good way, just from a competitive standpoint. Obviously Patrick [Ewing] and I go way, way back, going back to high school together so there’s a long history.”

Here is the rest of what Mullin said on Thursday afternoon:

On Tuesday’s win over No. 16/18 Marquette: “I thought it was a great game. Marquette’s a high-potent offensive team and I thought our defense was good and we stuck to our game plan. The ball moved and we shared the ball. From that loss [at Seton Hall], we made a lot of adjustments on the court and emotionally we moved on, which is important. It was a great win.”

On how the team has grown over the season: “I think it’s been a steady progress in all areas. In some games, there are things that we do well and there’s something else that we don’t do well and we correct it the next day. That doesn’t mean that it always produces a perfect game, but I think in that particular game [against Marquette], we really concentrated on how we were going to guard them personnel-wise and the players did a really good job on it. We rebound well and most importantly we shared the ball.”

On what impresses him with the consistency of this team:

“I think their preparation has been steady. I think with the veteran leadership we have in Shamorie [Ponds], Justin [Simon], Marvin [Clark II], and Mustapha [Heron], they can basically lead practice by example and the young guys follow through. It’s really a testament to their experience and leadership.”

On Sedee Keita’s role against Georgetown:

“We hope to increase him as his physical ability increases. I wouldn’t say he’s on a minutes restriction, but we have to monitor where he is physically. As we go into each game, it will hopefully increase but it will depend on how he is physically that day.”

On Shamorie Ponds’ leadership: “As a player, what Shamorie has been able to do is find his balance. He’s got this great gift of scoring. He’s an incredible passer and has the support of his teammates. We’re at the point now where some of these guys have been here for three-plus years. They’ve been through some tough losses and big wins together. They can go to each other and talk about what exactly is on their minds and they don’t take it personally or get their feelings hurt. I think when you have the ability to do that, it allows you to move on and keep building when you feel good about each other. That takes time and it takes natural maturity as a person.”

St. John’s Redshirt Senior Forward Marvin Clark II…

On Georgetown rivalry:

“I’d consider it more like a healthy hatred. I think Coach Mullin and Coach Ewing’s relationship speak volumes to that. They are friends today and were rivals back then, but when we step between those lines, it’s a rivalry.”

On 15-year losing streak in Washington D.C.:

“I think it’s our program and have had some down years. Last year, we came close, but close wasn’t good enough. It takes an elite level of focus to come home with a win.”

On the differences with this year’s team:

“I think we learned from last year and the Seton Hall game was a reminder. We came out clicking on all cylinders, playing well on the road and out playing them in the first half. We came out in the second half, we didn’t play to the level we played [in the first half], I fouled out and we lost the game late. It’s a learning lesson for us and what we went through last season and the veterans we have on this team, if we utilize that and play to full [potential], we can win like we did against Marquette.”

On the correlation between practice and in-game success:

“I think a lot of it is me settling down and knowing my role with the team. My teammates have helped me get into a rhythm and it’s starting to show. I’ve been at peace. Especially in the last eight games, I’ve been going out there and playing free. I’m not thinking about anything and relying on the work I put in and relying on my teammates.”

St. John’s Junior Guard Shamorie Ponds…

On the game against No. 16/18 Marquette:

“We came out energetic. We lost a tough one to Seton Hall and we were looking to bounce back. We showed a lot of resilience. We tried not to hold our head up to that game because after last year, we weren’t trying to do that again. We knew the game against Marquette was a must-win.”

On bouncing back after the loss to Seton Hall:

“We have more focus on the game plan. Coach [Mullin] came up with a great game plan of don’t let Markus Howard get a lot of threes off and we executed.”

On Georgetown:

“We have to have the same focus. We’re 1-1 [in the BIG EAST] and we haven’t proved anything yet. We are going to keep going higher. We have to stick to the game plan and hope for the win.”

On team’s strengths:

“We are coming together collectively as a team. I feel like if we want to win, we have to stick together.”

On his teammates:

“We have great guys around me on and off the court. These are my brothers and we gel together during the game.”

On the improvements he’s made this season:

“I’ve become more mature, a better teammate and a better leader. In order for us to win games, as a point guard, I have to be a leader and be more vocal and I have to keep working on that.”

St. John’s Junior Guard Mustapha Heron…

On the next game against Georgetown:

“We play fast, play hard and play tough. That’s a good combination. … It’s an intense game. They have great guard play. [Georgetown center] Jessie [Govan] is one of the best bigs in the country. Our game plan is going to be really good going in and we just have to execute.”

On consistency with Shamorie Ponds:

“I think playing hard and communication between him and I, along with Marvin [Clark II] and Justin [Simon] and being the four older guys on the team as leaders, we have to be vocal, communicate, set the bar high, and hope everyone will follow.”

On fan support:

They’re the sixth man on the floor. Once the students come back to campus, whether at Carnesecca or the [Madison Square] Garden, they’re going to be loud.”

 

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