Led by Shamorie Ponds (game-high 22 points), and a double-double by Tariq Owens (12 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks), the St. John's Red Storm turned a game which was unexpectedly close at the half into a runaway victory over the Sacred Heart Pioneers of the NEC.
The Johnnies were playing without Marcus LoVett, who had sprained his left knee at practice this week. And for the first half, his absence was clearly felt. The anemic offense which plagued St. John's in last Sunday’s game against UCF in Orlando seemed to follow them home to Carnesecca Arena, and the Pioneers (led by sophomore guard Kinnon LaRose - 12 points) made 7 of 11 from behind the arc to trail St. John’s by only 2 points entering the half.
The second half was a completely different story. Clearly inspired by Chris Mullin's dapper grey and black sweater, and fueled by a litany of steals, blocks, transition dunks, and 5 three pointers, the Johnnies blasted Sacred Heart 54-21 over the final 20 minutes.
The end result was St. John's improving to 7-1 for the first time since Steve Lavin’s final year (2014-2015), when the Red Storm last made the NCAA Tournament.
St. John's continued the troubling trend of poor starts against over-matched opponents (um...Molloy College). When they’re on, they can be as entertaining as almost any team in the Big East, but their inconsistency gives this team a feel of no better than a .500 club come league play... which is to say nothing of their upcoming non-conference schedule which will toughen from here on out (see below).
One of the biggest worries should be 3 pt shooting defense as Sacred Heart’s seven 1st half 3’s followed on the heels of the Advocare Invitational where the Johnnies gave up eleven 3’s to Oregon State and fourteen to Missouri. Lord help them if this trend continues once Big East play starts.
Marvin Clark II had his strongest game of the year and was especially vital during the first five minutes of the 2nd half when the game was still uncomfortably close. Clark had 6 points, 2 steals, and a key offensive rebound during this stretch.
St. John's heads west to play what feels like a sneaky trap game on late Tuesday night in Phoenix against Grand Canyon University, before facing a formidable test against ASU (of Xavier-scorching fame) on Friday, December 8 at the Staples Center in LA.