After a shaky start defensively, St. John’s ran away with an easy 80-55 win over Central Connecticut. Despite great defensive pressure early on, forcing 7 turnovers during the first ten minutes of the game, the Red Storm led just 21-17. Then the talent disparity became evident.
The Red Storm would go on a 20-2 run late in the first half and never looked back. Justin Simon’s work on the offensive glass and Shamorie Ponds’s ability to shred the defense helped lead the way. The pair combined for 20 points in the first half as St. John’s took a 43-27 lead into the break.
However, despite a big lead throughout, there were signs of concern reminiscent of last year. While their on-ball pressure was exceptional, especially in the full-court, their half-court perimeter defense was unimpressive. The Blue Devils missed lot of the same shots they made early on and had plenty of drive-and-kick opporutnities.
St. John’s energy may have played a role in the Blue Devils cooling down from the field, but their holes defensively ought to be of concern once they play the real talent of the Big East and teams such as the other Blue Devils. Length also continues to present an issue for St. John’s interior defense, which relies mostly on the strength of Marvin Clark and versatility of Simon and Bashir Ahmed (13 points).
All isn’t bad, however, as St. John’s ability to stretch the floor with Clark and the bevy of versatile players they have will present match-up issues on the other end for teams. And, even though they’re short-handed with nine players, Tariq Owens (six points, five rebounds, two blocks) and Bryan Trimble Jr. provide a solid spark on the defensive and offensive ends respectively. Trimble added 8 points off the bench.
Ponds finished with a game-high 21 points, in addition to 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Simon had 12 points and a team-high 11 rebounds in the win. Despite a quiet first half, Marcus LoVett’s 15 points helped maintain St. John’s lead throughout the second half.
The Red Storm will have a short turnaround, facing Nebraska in the Gavitt Games on Thursday night, also at Carnesecca Arena - the team’s stiffest test of the young season.