(The scene during the National Anthem before St. John’s – Providence on Saturday – Photo by Jason Schott)
The St. John’s Red Storm lost to Providence, 86-75, on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
It was a game in which the final score was not indicative, and led St. John’s Head coach Chris Mullin to question his team’s effort.
When asked his thoughts on the game in his postgame press conference, Mullin said, “No energy, no pop. We looked like we were sleep walking. It’s always that balance of being prepared, being rested and being sharp. We have to do a better job.
“I told them after the game we try to keep you prepared with the scouting report and film, and doing the right drills and having the right offense in, but at some point it doesn’t matter and you have to go play and compete. … Having a performance like that on that floor, you hope will wake you up.”
St. John’s shot just 4-21 overall and 1-10 on threes in the first half, and Providence took advantage, as they led 37-25 at halftime. The thing that kept the Red Storm in it somewhat was that they made 16 free throws in the first half.
Shamorie Ponds said of the Red Storm’s poor shooting in the first half, “I mean, it’s going to happen. We’re going to miss shots, but we just have to do all the other things to stay in the game. We only had four field goals in the first half, but we also didn’t do all of the other stuff to win the game.”
In the second half, the Friars really took over and opened up an 18-point lead, 60-42, on a Kalif Young tip-in with 8:29 left.
St. John’s did make a last-ditch effort, led by Ponds, who had 22 points in the second half. A Ponds layup with 50 seconds left pulled the Red Storm within seven points, 78-71.
That was as close as they got as Providence drained eight free throws from then on to close out the win.
Ponds led the way for St. John’s with 29 points on 12-25 from the field, 2-7 on threes. This was the 29th time this season the freshman scored in double figures.
The Brooklyn native also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and recorded three steals in 37 minutes of action. With 547 points on the season, Ponds passed D’Angelo Harrison’s previous freshman scoring mark of 544 achieved during the 2011-12 campaign. Ponds’ two threes bring his season-long total to 70, pulling him into a tie with Elijah Ingram (2003-04) for fourth on the school’s single-season record list.
Ponds is certainly making his case for Big East Freshman of the Year, and Mullin said of that, “Absolutely. No question; I don’t think there is a question about it. That was a career-high in points and he’s played probably 20 better games than he did today. That just shows you how well he’s played. He’s a really good scorer but his game is really about everything else. He’s always going to get his points but when he’s sharp and moving and active on defense, that’s when he becomes really special.”
The Red Storm finish Big East play with a record of 7-11, a dramatic improvement over the one conference win they had last season. They finished 13-18 overall.
Despite that big positive, there is still concern about their inconsistency, and Mullin said of that, “Much like teaching new habits and breaking old habits [playing inconsistently] is probably one of them. It doesn’t take away from the improvement we made. Part of improving is being accountable for each and every game, each and every practice. We talked about it. We’ll take a day off, have two good practices and come back and get ready to play Wednesday.”
The Red Storm are the eighth seed in the Big East Tournament, and will take on #9 Georgetown on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.
Mullin said of the mindset going into the Tournament, “I don’t really think the theme will change. We just played Georgetown, they’re a heck of a team; it was a good game. Without being redundant, I just [want us to] come to play with passion and energy. We’ll have two good practices and hope we have a nice energetic game on Wednesday night.”