There will be games after this, for sure, but tonight raised serious questions about how this year is going to go down.
St. John's lost to the Delaware State Hornets, 79-72. You read that correctly, and it was a sound beating.
Delaware State, a team that was 1-5 on the season with only a win over a Division III team to their credit.
Delaware State, a team picked 11th in the MEAC, below even Bethune-Cookman.
Delaware State, the easiest team on the schedule.
Yes, St. John’s (2-5), the Big East team, fought back late. To Delaware State.
Yes, this is the worst loss for any Big East team this season, topping Georgetown’s home loss to Arkansas State by a mile. Delaware State shot 60% inside the arc (24/40) while the bigger and more talented St. John’s shot 45% inside. St. John’s only managed eight free throws - stifled by the zone. The Hornets scored 1.2 points per possession. St. John’s scored 1.06 points per possession.
St. John's was led by 19 from Bashir Ahmed, 15 points and nine rebounds from Shamorie Ponds, and 13 from LoVett, who did not start.
Delaware State got 26 from Devin Morgan, and a career-high 16 from DeVaughn Mallory. Kavon Waller added 15 points and 6 rebounds.
Even for a rebuilding year, losing to a squad like Delaware State raises real questions.
Fundamentally, a lot has to be wrong to take an L to the 341st best team in Division I according to KenPom, a team blasted by a squad that was knocked around by Montana State. The defense and rebounding were, to not sugarcoat it, very poor. Part of the issue was the team being a little off and pressing in the second half, but part has to come back to a lack of cohesive fundamentals in covering shooters, in covering back door cuts, and in getting to loose balls.
Facing a zone defense, the Johnnies struggled to get good looks, blew layups and generally looked stiff offensively without the ability to run. And the team lacked cohesiveness. Shamorie Ponds, by the end, looked for his shot over passing to an open Mussini, leading to contested jumpers that led to Delaware State fast break points. Ahmed looked off an open Mussini looking for his shot and turned the ball over late.
Federico Mussini struggled in defense in particular, but he didn't look out of place; the Hornets used back door cuts all night and found practice-easy layups.
Delaware State showed how far St. John's had to go in Chris Mullin’s second year - and how much of this team’s talent needs to develop for the squad to compete in the Big East, and against different kinds of defenses.
St. John's missed their first four shots against the Delaware State Hornets - all three-pointers - and the Hornets had St. John’s on the back foot all evening.
The Johnnies travel to New Orleans to face Tulane on Friday evening. And the rest of this week will involve a lot of soul searching.