Playing its first game of the year at “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” the St. John’s men’s basketball team pulled away from Princeton, 89-74, on Sunday afternoon to remain unbeaten on the campaign.
St. John’s is now 9-0 for the first time since 1990-91 and just the third time since 1986-87. A win in the Johnnies’ next game against Wagner would make the Red Storm 10-0 for the first time since tying a school record with 14-consecutive victories to start the 1982-83 campaign during Chris Mullin’s sophomore season.
Leading by six at the final media timeout, the Johnnies scored the game’s final nine points and held Princeton without a bucket for the closing 3:41.
Shamorie Ponds led the way for the Red Storm, scoring 26 of the team’s season-high 89 points. The junior guard from Brooklyn also tallied five assists, five rebounds and four steals while shooting 11-for-18 from the floor. 18 of Ponds’ 26 points came in the second half.
Ponds (1,414) continued his ascent up the St. John’s all-time scoring list, passing Marcus Hatten (1,400) for 19th and pulling within five of Willie Glass (1,419) in 18th.
Five Johnnies finished in double figures for the second-straight game. LJ Figueroa registered 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting in addition to pulling down eight boards. Marvin Clark II added 13 points and eight boards while Mustapha Heron chipped in 12 and Justin Simon tallied 11 points, five rebounds and four assists.
As a team, the Johnnies shot 55.7 percent from the field, the team’s second-highest conversion rate of the season.
Defensively, the Red Storm forced the Tigers (4-4) into 20 turnovers, marking the fourth time this season that the Johnnies’ opponent has coughed up 20 or more possessions. St. John’s also outrebounded Princeton, 38-29, on the game.
The Red Storm struggled to halt the Tigers’ three-point attack in the early going, as Princeton made five of its first nine tries from distance and moved ahead by as many as four, 19-15, with just over seven minutes gone in the game.
Trailing by three, 22-19, with 11:30 to go in the half, St. John’s rattled off nine-straight and 15 of the game’s next 17 points, taking its first double-digit lead of the contest, 34-24, five minutes later. St. John’s managed to cool off the Tigers, forcing Princeton to miss eight of its nine shot attempts during that stretch.
The Tigers responded by outscoring St. John’s 14-4 over the next four and a half minutes, tying the game at 38 with just over two minutes remaining until the intermission.
The Red Storm regained its advantage late in the half thanks to an old-fashioned three-point play from Figueroa, as the hoop and the harm put the Johnnies ahead by three, 41-38, at the break.
Leading by just one, 49-48, after a Jaelin Llewellyn three-ball four minutes into the second half, the Johnnies created some separation once again. The Red Storm outscored Princeton 15-2 over the next five minutes with seven of those points coming off the lethal left hand of Ponds. The Johnnies built their lead as high as 19, 75-56, on a Ponds three-point play with 8:15 to go.
Princeton would not go quietly, making five-straight field goals and unleashing an 18-5 run to cut the St. John’s lead back to six, 80-74, at the game’s final media timeout.
From there, the Red Storm held Princeton without a bucket the rest of the way. The Johnnies forced the Tigers into misses on each of their final six field goal attempts, effectively sealing the victory for St. John’s.
St. John’s will have the week off to focus on final exams before returning to action on Sunday, Dec. 16, against Wagner at Carnesecca Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
POSTGAME QUOTES: St. John’s vs. Princeton
St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin, Shamorie Ponds and Marvin Clark II spoke with the media after Sunday’s win over Princeton, 89-74.
December 9, 2018
St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin…
On how ready the team is for BIG EAST competition:
“I think we’ve had a lot of improvement, which is exciting to me. I thought tonight we were really good offensively. That kid [Devin] Cannady is a heck of a player. He’s a heck of a shooter. Shamorie [Ponds] did a much of better job on him in the second half, but I’m excited about the improvements that we’re going to make. The good thing is, it’s not a lot of major things. It’s a lot of small details that we work on every day and we will continue to get better at. I think we’re doing a lot of good things and it’s exciting that there’s room for improvement.”
On the consistency of the team:
“I think when we put those stretches together, the ball was moving, we were making shots but it also started with a nice stop and a rebound, so I thought tonight we did a good job on the boards. When we get out, get stops, and share we’re pretty exciting. We’re working toward being more consistent, working toward, 20, 25, 30, 40 minutes. But we see the potential. … The players understand what the difference is and that’s why we practice and that’s why we rehearse and prepare. So I think that’s the exciting part for me is that we see what we can do. Doing it more consistently is our next step.”
On what part of the game can be more consistent:
“I think both sides we can. Tonight in the second half we did a much better job defending and being able to rebound. I thought tonight we got a little careless with the ball. We had 14 turnovers. We’re usually down to around eight or nine. In the first half, too, I thought we made some nice stops. We didn’t reward ourselves by being just a bit careless. When we put those together, we all see what we can do.”
On what the players have taught him that he’ll take with them in the future:
“From a basketball standpoint, we’ve been talking about fundamentals. … When you try and play the game at a highlight reel pace, that’s usually when you get beat so we’ve stressed fundamentals, skill development, unselfishness on offense and defense. Life experience, we all have our experiences. We try to share them with each other and learn from our mistakes. One thing I always try not to forget, I was once their age and what they go through, and I try to keep that fresh in my mind that not so much from a critical standpoint but from assistance and mentorship as opposed to just judging and try to do what’s best for them and trying to remember I was in their shoes and what it’s like.”
On Jim O’Connell (Oc):
“I’ve known him for a long time. Oc’s been a really good friend of mine. I’ve always admired his class, his humility, his dignity. I thought he did a great job covering basketball, but more importantly I appreciate his friendship and his class and dignity. I think in basketball there are guys you look up to. I think he’s a guy that you all probably looked up to and tried to emulate.”
St. John’s Guard Shamorie Ponds…
On the crowd at Madison Square Garden:
“Madison Square Garden is the most famous arena. With that being said, I feel like our fans are extra pumped and we just feed off their energy.”
On his strong offensive performance in the second half:
“Just setting my teammates up, but I also think I need to cut down on my turnovers. I think I had a little bit too many, but we just have to keep improving.”
On what needs to be done to be prepared for the BIG EAST:
“I’d say just stay together. I feel like with a 9-0 record we can’t get content. We can’t get comfortable. I feel like we have a lot to improve, so we just have to keep pushing.”
St. John’s Men’s Basketball Guard Marvin Clark II…
On not getting the start:
“I was happy for my teammates, cheering them on. That’s what a team is for. I trust in every one of my teammate’s capabilities.”
On his overall thoughts on the team performance:
“I thought we performed well in stretches. Like Coach (Mullin) said, we have a lot to improve on, but it’s nothing major. In my mind it’s all little things, just paying attention to minor details. Something so simple as realizing the game is not over. We got a little lax. Started trying to have too much fun on the break, even myself. I tried to push it and go behind the back. Luckily I dove on it and pushed it out, but just little things like that. I think once we figure out that once we get that lead, you start stepping on guys’ throats, that’s when we’ll reach our full potential.”
On what needs to be done to be prepared for the BIG EAST:
“We get about a week off. Get a chance to get our bodies right, get a chance to step away from the game just a little bit. I think we just have to keep working. I think just using this week more to prepare and gel a little more. Tonight we showed a little bit that we’ve been working together and playing together. We had a few nice possessions where we moved the ball where everybody touched it. We also had some nice possessions where we had some great scrambles. Everybody helped everybody on defense. So I would just say using that time to really prepare and really lock in and focus on the little things like Coach (Mullin) said and with that comes just being responsible and having humility and accepting whatever coach is telling us and going out there and practicing.”
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