(Shamorie Ponds – @StJohnsBball)
St. John’s opened the season with a dominant performance, as they beat Loyola Maryland, 76-55, on Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena.
St. John’s took control of this game early, jumping out to a 21-8 lead on a Mikey Dixon three-point play at the 9:58 mark of the first half and a Shamorie Ponds three-pointer as time expired gave them a 48-23 lead at halftime.
Ponds, the Preseason Big East Player of the Year, lived up to the hype in his season debut, as he led the way with 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including two three-pointers, with four assists and grabbed three steals in just 25 minutes of action.
Ponds, who owns both the freshman and sophomore scoring records at St. John’s, eclipsed the 20-point mark for the 28th time in his collegiate career.
Mustapha Heron had a nice debut in his first game with St. John’s, as he poured in 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. The transfer from Auburn also grabbed seven rebounds and tallied three assists.
Justin Simon had a nice game with 10 points on 4-for-9 from the field, six rebounds, and two assists despite being limited to just 23 minutes because of early foul trouble
St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin said of Ponds and Heron’s chemistry, “We were really good in the first half. Great defense. Great activity. For the most part we ran our offense pretty well. I think that’s going to keep getting better as they play more together and get some minutes. We threw out a lot of different lineups on the court and that’s what we intend to do all year. The combinations are going to take some time to get better. I think Shamorie and Mustapha have a great feel for the game. They’ve played with each other in the past before college. They’re two very skilled, smart players. I’m not really concerned about that.”
Ponds said of What it’s like to have Heron on the team, “It’s a blessing, he can score inside and out, defend, rebound. He’s a great added piece that was definitely needed.”
Mullin said of having a lot of offensive weapons, “Yeah it’s a huge difference. I haven’t seen both [Mustapha Heron and Shamorie Ponds] go off like that in practice. I think we’ll get better. We played a lot of minutes without Justin [Simon] and Sedee [Keita] because of foul trouble. My college coach [Lou Carnesecca] told me when I took the job to get good players. The better players you get the better coach that you are and I think we are continuing to work on that. Shamorie and Mustapha have had two great seasons. Everyone knows that. Now it’s about winning and doing it with other players around them.”
Mikey Dixon came of the bench in his St. John’s debut and he was one of four Johnnies to reach double figures, as he posted 13 points on 4-9 shooting, including 2-4 from behind the arc.
Mullin said of the performance of Dixon and the rest of the bench, “I thought [Mikey Dixon] played well and that’s coming off almost sitting out and not playing a real game in about 15 months. I think he did good job. We’re gonna need those guys at certain points. You never know what’s going to happen. Whether it’s foul trouble or if someone gets injured. We need them to keep practicing and training hard every day and be ready to go. Mikey did a good job tonight.”
On what this game says about his team, Mullin said, “You have to establish yourself every day. I tell my guys that we’re gonna have some bad days and that it’s ok. I haven’t really seen our guys play together well yet. I haven’t seen it in practice either to tell you the truth. The first half was the first time I saw them play well and energetic with effort. … I’ve seen spurts of it in practice. … It was pretty encouraging to me, with Sedee [Keita] and Justin [Simon] in foul trouble. The other guys came in and they looked like they belonged and fit on the court. So that’s a good thing. … Today was a good step forward since last Thursday’s [exhibition], but we still have a long way to go.”