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St. John’s bedeviled by #2 Duke

Ponds and Co. have a no good very bad day at Cameron Indoor Stadium

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Prospects for St. John’s appeared to be on the rebound. Earlier in the week, they posted a nice rebound win over Creighton following a rather dismal loss to Georgetown. The win over the Bluejays gave St. John’s some hope of getting their season fully back on track, especially as a tough slate in their schedule was coming up with the first game in this slate coming Saturday against Duke down in North Carolina.

Last season against the Blue Devils, the Red Storm pulled off a stunning upset at Madison Square Garden that had a compounding effect of ending a long stretch of woes and starting a run of games that gave the Red Storm some life and a oddly brief flutter of hope.

This time around it was St. John’s turn to make the trip down to Cameron to square off once more with Duke with a hope of once again getting an upset win.

Sadly, it was not meant to be as the Blue Devils simply bedeviled St. John’s beating them by a scoreline of 91-61.

It was the last non-conference game for St. John’s for this season and their first non-conference loss, though, in the grand scheme of things, the Red Storm have much more pressing issues.

The game got off to a good start as St. John’s were able to keep some pace with Duke for much of the first half though it became apparent that much of their play was stunted and hung on to the production of a few players with much of the roster cold as ice. The first sign of cracks was when Marvin Clark II got his third foul close to the midway mark of the first half which happened around the time that Duke’s Zion Williamson started to get hot. From that point on it was essentially all Duke for the rest of the game, with the Red Storm efforts in the second half being drowned out by whatever the Blue Devils were doing.

The most apparent issue though was the absence of Shamorie Ponds, who had a lost game. He just could not get anything going or even to provide a much needed rudder to the Red Storm’s ship in this game. In the second half, there was some life but by then it was too late as Duke had done their damage. Ponds finished with 11 points, he was not the only one who was lost. Justin Simon had a rather forgetful game for the Red Storm with just four points.

The best options for the Red Storm were the trio of LJ Figueroa, Mustapha Heron, and Marvin Clark II. All three were hot early but cooled off later on.Figueroa led the way with team leading marks with 14 points and 8 rebounds. Clark had 12 points and some early three point success, and Heron had a 10 point game but cooled off after a hot start. In the end it just might be a case that the hot start was unsustainable without other options and relying on just three players for the bulk is not a good way of going about your game.

On the Duke side of things it was business as usual, as the Blue Devils kept things compact in the first half before playing a simply bedeviling second half against the Red Storm. Naturally, as this game was played in ESPN, there was a lot of praise of Zion Williamson and the prospect of him being New York Knick (which probably won’t happen as good things don’t happen to the Knicks). Even with the commentary at times becoming grating he was dominant, posting a 29 point game and some rather tasty dunks on the Red Storm. Cam Reddish had a 16 point game, RJ Barrett had a double-double game of 15 points and 14 rebounds, and Tre Jones had a 13 point game. They just turned it on and could not be stopped.

With this loss, St. John’s moves to 16-6 on the season and next up for them is a road game against Marquette. Looking at form in the recent weeks, that might be a loss for the Red Storm as they have gone on a pattern of losing two in a row then winning one then losing two in a row. Maybe they’ll break out of that cycle, but that’s then and as for now a long trip back to New York after a dismal day in North Carolina.