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Penn State vs. St. John’s final score: Red Storm stumble against Nittany Lions

St. John’s started competitive, but Penn State was just too much.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at St. John
Chris Mullin’s team couldn’t pull off the victory against their Big Ten opponent
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s showed heart and fight, but Penn State proved too much for the Red Storm, coming away with a 92-76 victory on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

The game was close for most of the first half, with the two teams trading buckets and St. John’s leading 24-17 with 8:36 left in the half. Then the run came. Penn State hung 35 points on St. John’s in that remaining 8:36 of the first half compared to St. John’s five (all free throws), completely flipping the game (as most 35-5 runs do) and leaving the Johnnies with a 52-29 deficit going into the locker rooms at half.

With a mountain to climb in the second half, the Johnnies just couldn’t quite find a way back into the game, never getting to within 15 again en route to the final 92-76 score.

Malik Ellison lead all Red Storm scorers with 22 points on 8-11 from the floor, including going 5-6 from 3. Shamorie Ponds chipped in 12 (but on 3-17 from the floor), and Tariq Owens added 11 (and 11 rebounds) before fouling out.

Penn State was lead by Shep Garner, who had 21 in just 23 minutes of floor time before fouling out.

If I told you the game was pretty, I’d be stretching the truth a bit. Each side had 21 turnovers and Penn State had 20 personal fouls called against them compared to St. John’s 18. Penn State’s field goal percentages, however, were very, very pretty, shooting 50% in total from the floor and 56.5% from beyond the arc. St. John’s could only manage 37.3% from the floor and 37.5% from 3. Penn State also had eight more assists than St. John’s.

To even the least basketball obsessed fan, it still looked like nothing St. John’s was doing on defense worked. Their full court press looked unorganized and undisciplined and even simple help-side defense and good man-to-man principles were lacking at times. Chalk some of that up to Penn State moving the ball so well this game, but St. John’s did themselves no favors in letting Penn State see the looks they wanted.

St. John’s is now 5-7 on the year, and are staring at a loaded slate coming their way in the next few weeks, with games away at Syracuse, home versus Butler, away at DePaul, and at home against Creighton. There are a few bright spots in the Red Storm lineup, but if they don’t correct the defensive flaws seen today and don’t have some of their stars have the days they’re supposed to (Lovett and Mussini combined for 12 points and Ponds going 3-17 is unacceptable), this next stretch of games will see them struggle against teams that move the ball better than Penn State can and teams that can play better defense. Coach Mullin needs to light a fire under his team quick, or it’ll be an incredibly tough start to Big East play.