The college basketball calendar has flipped to a new year as conference play has gotten underway. For St. John’s and Butler, that meant a Thursday night meeting on the court of the Carnesecca Arena to kick off their respective Big East campaigns.
Both teams were coming into tonight’s game with hopes of continuing recent success. The Bulldogs were riding a three-game win streak while the Johnnies were coming off of an impressive road win last week against Syracuse.
It would come down to the wire tonight as the Red Storm would hold out for a 76-73 win over the ‘Dawgs.
Shamorie Ponds was the go-to man once again as he would finish the night with a game-high 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Ponds was a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line. as well, and marked the second time this season that Ponds finished a game with 26 points, his season and career high mark so far. He also led the way tonight in rebounds with a mark of seven over the course of the game.
Along with the efforts of Ponds, St. John’s got production tonight from Bashir Ahmed and Marcus LoVett. Ahmed had 19 points on the night while LoVett picked up 10 off the bench. Among the shots that LoVett managed to hit for his points tonight was a corner jumper in the dying minutes to tie the game and to set the stage for St. John’s win on the foul line.
Overall St. John’s played smartly tonight, even with their basic game plan not working they adjusted well to Butler over the course of the game and played to their strengths. They also proved that to challenge in the Big East, there is no such thing as an easy game or a day off in conference play.
As for Butler, Tyler Wideman led the way tonight for the Bulldogs with 20 points on a mark of 8-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from the free throw line. He also shared the game lead in rebounds (9) with Kelan Martin. Martin chipped in 13 points on as the secondary scoring option for Butler. Rounding things out were Avery Woodson and Kethan Savage who each had 10.
At the moment, St. John’s has strung together two impressive wins. This was also the first time since the 2011-12 season that St. John’s managed to win their conference opener. While this fact might be cherry picked, it is sort of impressive that St. John’s failed to win their opener in Big East play for quite some time. As for Butler this was their second loss of the season with the first one coming against the Sycamores of Indiana State.
In the aftermath of tonight’s game, Bashir Ahmed made the astute point that “Teams were sleeping on us, perhaps it’s time to wake them up.” The time to wake them up is now, so perhaps a Red Storm is on the rise? Time will certainly tell.