The St. John’s men’s basketball team improved to 12-0 with its most productive offensive outing in years, downing Sacred Heart, 104-82, at Carnesecca Arena.
Off to the program’s best start since the 1982-83 squad won 14-straight to start the year, the Red Storm is one of just five unbeaten teams remaining in the nation.
The Red Storm set a program record with 17 made 3-pointers, eclipsing the previous high-water mark of 16 that had been reached three times, including earlier this season at Rutgers.
St. John’s touched the century mark for the first time since pouring in 100 against Bethune Cookman in the 2016-17 season opener and registered its highest point total since posting 104 against Fordham on Dec. 7, 2013. The last time the Johnnies scored more than 104 points in a single contest came all the way back on Jan. 4, 1999, when the Red Storm dispatched of Niagara, 115-70.
St. John’s assisted on 28 of the team’s 38 made field goals and committed just eight turnovers, only one of which came after halftime. The last time the Johnnies registered more than 28 assists came in that 2013 win over Fordham, when the Red Storm dished out 29 dimes on 39 buckets.
Marvin Clark II and Mustapha Heron led the way for St. John’s with 23 points apiece. Clark, who fell just one shy of his career high, scored all 23 of his points in the first half. The redshirt senior from Kansas City, Mo., went 7-for-9 from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, including a 6-of-8 effort from beyond the arc. Clark’s six threes set a new career high and are tied for the sixth highest single-game total by a player in St. John’s history.
Heron made eight of his 12 field goal attempts, including a career-high five triples on just six tries. The Auburn transfer also registered three assists and a pair of steals in just 25 minutes of action.
LJ Figueroa, one of the league’s most efficient scorers, posted 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go along with five assists, three rebounds and a pair of steals.
Shamorie Ponds narrowly missed his second double-double in three tries, tallying 13 points, nine assists, five rebounds, a pair of steals and just one turnover. All three of the Brooklyn native’s field goals came from beyond the arc.
The fifth St. John’s player to finish in double figures, Justin Simon netted 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting. The Johnnies boasted five in double figures for the third time on the team’s five-game homestand.
The Red Storm seemed to dash any hopes of a Sacred Heart (4-8) upset in a matter of mere minutes, scoring the game’s first 14 points during a 26-7 run to kick off the contest. Clark scored 15 of those 26 points for St. John’s to start the game, hitting four triples and converting on an old-fashioned three-point play.
After trailing by as many as 19, Sacred Heart battled back and trimmed the lead to single digits on a number of occasions in the first half, but never pulled closer than nine. The Johnnies capped the period on a 7-1 spurt over the final 1:27, taking a 15-point advantage into the locker room, 53-38.
Sacred Heart came out of the gate firing in the second half, kicking off the latter stanza with a 7-0 run to pull within eight. The Red Storm promptly responded with 18 unanswered, blowing the game wide open once again. Ponds scored eight points on the 18-0 run while Heron added six and Figueroa chipped in a pair of layups.
After bumping its lead to 26, 71-45, following the 18-0 tear, the Red Storm’s chances were never truly in doubt. The Johnnies led by as many as 29 and only let the Pioneers trail by fewer than 20 for one possession.
St. John’s will kick off the BIG EAST portion of its 2018-19 slate on Dec. 29, traveling to Newark for a showdown with Seton Hall. The matchup will mark the 100th meeting in the rivalry between original conference foes
St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin…
On the team’s focus and energy:
“I thought we came out and played really solid defense, shared the ball well. I believe we went up fourteen to zero, so it is always hard to maintain that. We made some substitutions. [Sacred Heart] is one of the fastest teams pace wise in college basketball, so they are going to get the ball up and down and score their points. I liked the ball movement offensively, 28 assists total. I think there was really crisp ball movement. We did get a little over aggressive defensively, we let people get into the middle, and I thought we had to maintain that pace. It was a pretty good effort tonight. I’ll take 28 assists on 38 made baskets.”
On the team’s readiness for BIG EAST play:
“December 29th, we play Seton Hall, so we will be ready. Everything that has happened up to this point is in the past now. We will take a few days off for Christmas and then get ready to play.”
On the team’s upcoming competition:
“Everything we do is geared towards progression and improvement, and a lot is geared towards what we do. As those teams come along, we will prepare for them and the scouting report. We will get our game plan together. BIG EAST Conference play is always exciting.”
On what the team must do to reach its full potential:
“I think each day, like tonight, we had great ball movement, and shot the three ball really well. Our defense poor was in spots and that’s something we definitely can improve on. Last game [vs. St. Francis Brooklyn], our defense was really solid, sometimes our shot selection isn’t as good. Those things will vary, but I believe our overall game is in good shape; our offense and defense are in good shape. When you have players, aged 18 to 23, you must think you can get better, if not, why would you show up. I do think there is a lot of improvement individually; each guy can get a little bit better. I believe it is more small detail things then major things we are going to change or things we need to overhaul. Being sharp, being locked in defensively, position wise when you are on the ball, knowing whom you are playing from a gameplay, personal standpoint. Offensively, I think we are getting there. Like I said, we are going to be taking a few days off and prepare for Seton Hall.”
Junior guard Shamorie Ponds…
On his no-look, between-the-legs pass:
“I saw him running from the corner of my eye and I just wanted to get it to him quick. That was my best way of getting it to him. I planned it out, when I saw the ball coming to me I saw LJ running and I just put it between my legs.”
On playing against his friend Myles Powell in the BIG EAST opener at Seton Hall:
“It will definitely be fun. We haven’t had a conversation about the game yet, but I am pretty sure the next few days the buzz will be growing and he is probably going to hit me up and talk trash. It’s brotherly love.”
On his offensive adjustments this season:
“I definitely try to let the game come to me and try not to force anything. We got out to a hot start so why not keep feeding it to him [Marvin].”
On schedule criticism and 12-0 start to the season:
“We can’t control what they say. They are going to say what they are going to say. We can only control what we can control. As for getting wins, we may not be playing the top competition but 12-0 is 12-0. We just have to continue to push and bring out a couple more wins.”
Redshirt Senior forward Marvin Clark II…
On his first half scoring streak:
“I just felt good, my teammates did a great job of putting me in positions to catch and shoot open shots. I just felt great and shot it with confidence.”
On what being 12-0 means to the team:
“It is something to build on. It was a great non-conference performance for our university, for our team, and for our program. Next step is BIG EAST play. That’s when it really matters. That’s what we are looking most forward to.”
On if the team has something to prove to the nation:
“We definitely have a lot to prove. We are 12-0, but at the end of the day we haven’t done anything yet. We haven’t played well in BIG EAST play in the past so we definitely have something to prove. If we go out every game with something to prove with a chip on our shoulder, we will definitely be ready for BIG EAST play.”
On how excited the team is to play BIG EAST games:
“It’s exciting, but what I am most excited for is to see my family. I haven’t seen them since the summer and I’m just ready to spend three days with them and enjoy Christmas.”
Sacred Heart Head Coach Anthony Latina:
On tonight’s game vs. St. John’s:
“We turned it over a ton. I think we had five turnovers in the first four minutes and got down fourteen to nothing. So that was a problem. Once we settled down and the game settled in, we had a little more success. But against a team as explosive as St. John’s, you can’t spot a team sixteen points. In the second half, we cut it to eight or nine and then we had a turnover spree. And they’re so explosive in turning turnovers into easy baskets. I don’t know what they shot from three but it looked like they made every shot. So they’re a tough matchup team. They put four guys on the court that can all score, can all make a three.”
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