With the game clock waning, basketball fans at Madison Square Garden rose to their feet. St. John’s once comfortable lead had quickly slipped to a mere point. Supporters watched in amazement, gasping as Georgetown clawed back into the contest.
In the game’s most crucial moment, freshman Shamorie Ponds stepped to the foul line. Ponds’ eyes were locked on the rim, his calm demeanor radiating confidence throughout an anxious crowd.
“My teammates believe in me,” stated Ponds when asked about playing in the big moments. “I just got the ball and didn’t really think too much. When the team believes in you, they want you to do what you do. I believe I was built for that moment.”
Ponds would convert on both free-throw attempts, fueling a boisterous New York crowd. In front of over 11,000 loud fans, St. John’s finished off a slumping Georgetown.
As displayed on Saturday, the Red Storm have played very well at Madison Square Garden. Whenever the Johnnies play at this historic venue, they seem to posses a little more energy.
“In general, I think these guys feed off the crowd, for sure. I think they're comfortable playing here now,” remarked a laid back Chris Mullin after the Georgetown contest. “We talked about it yesterday, to be a good team the first thing you have to do is protect home court.”
St. John’s likely will miss out on postseason play this season. Their only chance to earn a postseason bid requires a deep run in the Big East Tournament. Fortunately for the Red Storm, that tournament will take place on their home court, a setting which they have thrived as of late.
“It can be an advantage for us because this crowd supports us a lot,” Federico Mussini told reporters on Saturday, noting how the Red Storm faithful can aid this club. “When it gets loud, we feel better on the court. We feel way more confident, we like to play together, and so the crowd is going to be important in the Big East Tournament.”
St. John’s did not move up in the Big East standings as a result of Saturday’s contest. At the same time, they did extend their lead over Georgetown for 8th place.
Providence, Seton Hall, and Marquette are currently jammed in the middle of the Big East. It seems the most likely scenario for the Johnnies is finishing in 8th place. That would likely pit them against Georgetown in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Projecting ahead, a victory over the Hoyas in that 8/9 contest would set up a second round tilt with Villanova.
Regardless of seeding, St. John’s has certainly proved to be no pushover at Madison Square Garden.
While this season has continued to test the patience of Johnny fans eager for sustained success, this Red Storm bunch is developing a penchant for winning at home. Games at Carnesecca Arena should also be mentioned, as it is another stadium which has treated St. John’s well.
Good teams protect their home court, but great teams consistently win on the road. St. John’s has their aim on becoming prominent yet again. As spectators, we can only wait and acknowledge forward progress. For now, that progress is portrayed on the home hardwood.