After a week-long break, the Red Storm returned to Carnesecca Arena on Saturday afternoon, securing an 90-55 victory over the Sacred Heart Pioneers.
St. John’s improved to 7-1 with the victory, the best start to any season under Chris Mullin. Sacred Heart dropped to 3-5.
The already short-handed team played without Marcus LoVett (sprained knee) and it was noticeable during a forgettable first half. St. John’s struggled to score early on, relying heavily on their defense. With Shamorie Ponds’ shooting struggles and LoVett’s absence, Bashir Ahmed filled the offensive void.
Ahmed had one of his best outings offensively, finishing the game with 13 points. At the core of his strong play was his ability to let the game come to him. He never forced anything, shot within the flow of the offense and gave the Red Storm enough power to remain in control of the game.
The other side of the ball was far from pretty in the first half. Despite the numerous turnovers forced by St. John’s (13 in the first half alone), Sacred Heart’s perimeter shooting kept them in the game. Sacred Heart shot 7-for-11 from deep and trailed just 34-32 at the half. It was, as has been the case, another slow first half for the Red Storm. Then the second half happened.
Whatever the coaching staff did or said at halftime... they need to bottle it and inject it into the team before the game as well.
The change between halves was explosive. The Red Storm would eventually go on a 22-3 run in the second half, containing the hot shooting of Sacred Heart. The Pioneers did not connect on a single three in the second half and shot 31% from the floor, down from their 52% shooting in the first half.
Shamorie Ponds was night-and-day between halves. After struggling to get going in the first half, scoring 6 points on 3-for-10 shooting, the second half featured a resurgence, and perhaps a break from his shooting slump. He would shoot 6-for-9 in the second half, finishing with a game-high 22 points and 7 assists.
Down a starter, Tariq Owens got the call and delivered on both ends. He had 4 monstrous blocks, pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds and scored 12 points on efficient 5-for-6 shooting.
Next for St. John’s will be awaiting word on Marcus LoVett’s availability, and a trip to Arizona to face Grand Canyon to start a pivotal week.