(Shamorie Ponds celebrates on a big night for St. John’s – @StJohnsBball)
St. John’s beat Marquette, 89-69, on Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena to earn their first Big East Conference win of the season in what was possibly their best performance of the season.
The Red Storm rebounded from a heartbreaking loss to Seton Hall on Saturday night that opened Big East play. That was their first loss overall of the season as well, as they went 12-0 in non-conference play.
St. John’s point guard Shamorie Ponds led the way, as he had 26 points on 8-15 shooting, including 4-7 from behind the arc, with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
“We needed to bounce back from last game, not only individually, but as a team,” Ponds said, referring to how he was held to 8 points on Saturday night. “There were a few errors that we made in that game in which it shouldn’t have gone to that point, but it’s great that we had this win tonight.”
St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin said of Ponds, “I’m just glad he played well. I know he didn’t feel good about last game. … I’ve played games just like that. I remember them still to this day and the only thing you want to do is go out there and play again and play well. Days like that, they’re really good teaching moments in basketball, but also in life. Things get thrown your way unexpectedly and a lot of times you’re not going to like it, but the most important thing is how you handle it. I thought he played a beautiful game tonight. To play like he did tonight, coming back from the way he felt two days ago, that’s what college basketball is all about.”
Marvin Clark II, who fouled out late on Saturday night, also responded with a statement performance, as he had 22 points on 7-10 from the field, including 4-6 on three-pointers, 7 rebounds, and an assist.
On if this win over #16 Marquette was a statement win, Clark said, “I believe it shows that we have a talented team. It also shows that we still have a lot to prove. I tip my hat to Marquette, but whatever the naysayers were saying about our non-conference schedule, it doesn’t matter. I think that’s what it says the most.”
Mustapha Heron poured in 16 points (4-7 FG, 2-4 threes), with 8 rebounds and 2 assists. Justin Simon had 12 points (5-11 FG, 1-2 threes), 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. LJ Figueroa had 11 points (5-10 FG), 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.
St. John’s shot 53.6 percent (30-56) from the field, and 45.8 percent (11-24) from behind the arc.
The St. John’s defense was stifling, as they held Marquette’s star Markus Howard, who averages 25.1 points-per-game, to just 8 points, on 2-15 shooting, including 2-8 from behind the arc.
Ponds said of holding Howard to 8 points, “I feel liked we keyed on him. We know he likes to take a lot of three’s, so we tried to limit them and the transition points. We just limited him getting his three’s up.”
Marquette as a team shot just 41.9 percent, or 26-62, from the field, and were 6-21, or 28.6 percent, from behind the arc.
Mullin said of his team’s improved three-point defense, “I think the one thing that happens as the season moves along is that the team gets locked in. We’ve locked down on our strengths and weaknesses. I think that’s a natural progression. From a physical standpoint, I think we have a good team in the way that we can switch and take away some shots on defense. I think we’re solid and versatile enough to do this every night and it’s something that we’ve gotten better at.”
This was a night the St. John’s program has been waiting for at Carnesecca Arena for quite some time, as all the hype and anticipation was rewarded for one night, and the possibilities of what this team can be were crystal clear.
On if tonight’s performance reflects his vision for this team, Mullin said, “When you have a lot of offensive players, the ball has to move. That goes two ways. If the ball doesn’t move, the offense becomes stagnant and can sometimes look selfish. If you move the ball and let the pass create energy, good things happen. Not only do we have good scorers, we have players with high IQ’s. After our last game, I wasn’t really disappointed with how we played. There were some adjustments that had to be made but they weren’t drastic. It was more on the fundamentals of basketball. I thought our defense tonight was phenomenal and it dictated the whole game and we did a good job taking away the three.”
Mullin said of the excitement for the basketball program that was felt at Carnesecca Arena, “That building tonight was a big factor. I really believe that. The fans came out and not only supported our guys but they’re excited with what’s going on with our team. They realize that it’s been a progression and they’ve watched it grow. When you do it that way, there’s a buy-in. People feel connected to it. It’s authentic and genuine. We win and lose the same way.”
Ponds said of the crowd being a factor, “I definitely think that we fed off of the energy from the crowd. They lifted us up. Every night we play in Carnesecca, we need that energy.”
St. John’s hits the road for the next game, as they take on archrival Georgetown and their head coach, Patrick Ewing, Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in Washington, DC.