It was an ugly, offense-deprived game at the Advocare Invitational for the Red Storm. Despite the shooting woes, St. John’s barely managed to hang on to a 46-43 victory over Central Florida, improving to 6-1 on the season.
The Red Storm played some of their best basketball of the year for the first four minutes of the game. The defense was impeccable, suffocating at its best early on. They were drawing offensive fouls and didn’t allow any room for 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall (8 points) to operate.
The first possession of the game for UCF was disrupted by a Marcus LoVett steal and layup. Marvin Clark knocked down a couple of threes and St. John’s took a 10-0 lead early on. They started the game red hot, shooting 4-for-4 from the floor; then it went downhill.
At halftime, St. John’s hadn’t attempted a single free throw, indicative of their poor shot selection. While their defense was disrupting UCF’s offense, the Knights had 16 attempts from the line in the first half as they led 23-22. To top off the Red Storm struggles, Shamorie Ponds was scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting.
Tariq Owens changed the game defensively in the second half. His shot blocking and Marvin Clark’s three point shooting (11 points) set the tone as St. John’s battled for momentum. However, foul trouble would limit Owens’s minutes throughout.
Foul trouble would also sideline Fall. With six minutes left in the game, Fall checked in with four fouls and a target on his chest. Seconds later, Ponds drove right into him and gave him his fifth and final foul. But the backcourt struggles would continue. LoVett and Ponds combined for 6-for-31 shooting for 18 points. In fact, Ponds wouldn’t make his first shot until the 4-minute mark in the second half.
As the finals minutes of the game ticked down, St. John’s managed to hang on to a slim, three point lead due to the free throw shooting of Ponds. UCF did have two chances to tie the game during the final seconds. Luckily for the Red Storm, in a game in which they shot 27% from the floor, were outscored 26-14 in the paint and saw their backcourt struggle, St. John’s walked away with a win.
LoVett had a team-high 12 points. Ponds finished with 6 points and 10 rebounds.