|Shamorie Ponds. @StJohnsBball.|
On a day when a school from Queens hosted one from Staten Island, it was a kid from Brooklyn who made the difference.
Shamorie Ponds had 16 points, 14 assists, and 9 rebounds to lead St. John's to a 73-58 win over Wagner on Sunday afternoon at Carnesecca Arena.
St. John's improved to 10-0 on the season, the last remaining unbeaten team in the Big East Conference. This is the first St. John’s team in 36 years and just the seventh in the 112-year history of the program to start a campaign with 10 or more consecutive wins.
The last time this was achieved was in 1982-83 when Chris Mullin, then a sophomore, led the Johnnies to a school-record 14-straight wins to kick off the season before eventually winning the program’s first Big East title. Since 1950, only three St. John’s teams have begun a season with at least 10-straight victories.
Mullin, the current St. John's Head Coach, said of his squad, "“The 10-0 is a great accomplishment no matter who you play. It hasn’t been done for  years. ... I think what it says is that our daily approach has been on point and I don’t think we get too high or too low. I think we’re pretty transparent, first and foremost. Our approach is to win the game. Obviously, we like to play as well as we can. But more importantly, the next day we watch the film and try and better things. … Tonight I thought our defense was really good and then we turned the ball over a bit. So every time you feel good about one thing something else pops up. For the most part, we’ve been really good at not turning the ball over. Last two games, we had 14 or 15, which is a little high for us. I thought, especially in the second half, our switching defense was much better and much more aggressive. I think our daily approach, which is try and prepare for each game as the come. It’s not really looking ahead or looking backwards or really concerned who we’re playing. We’re concerned with how we’re playing, and what we need to do to win that game.”
Ponds made some history, as his 14 assists were the most for a Red Storm player since Omar Cook had 13 dishes against Boston College on January 10, 2001.
Ponds shot 4-7 from the field, including 2-2 from behind the arc, to give him 16 points. He was one rebound shy of the first triple-double for a St. John's player in 20 years.
Mullin said of Ponds' near triple-double, “We left him in a little extra and it didn’t work out. I kind of was [disappointed] but sometimes that’s the way the ball bounces. He played a heck of a game, 14 assists, one turnover, to me, really is the most important thing and something he’s really done a great job of. His playmaking’s been incredible and that to me, more than grabbing an extra rebound, but 14 assists and one turnover, to me, is pretty incredible.”
Ponds said of coming up one rebound short of a triple double, “I mean I was trying to get it, but also I wasn’t trying to get hurt. It was coming to the end of the game and the game was kind of like, over. So I mean, I was trying to get it, but things happen.”
Marvin Clark II said of how Ponds handles the game, “Like I said at the last press conference we had, he’s been working on all facets of his game. He’s really been trying to be more of a playmaker. Because of that, he’s making us better, making our team better. It was definitely a special performance. I wish he could have gotten that tenth rebound, but it’s definitely nice to watch him blow up.”
Mullin said of Ponds’ ability as a playmaker, “I think we’ve seen it, it’s actually become more apparent because he’s got better players around him. Pretty much since he’s started, his passing has always been something that’s stood out to me. He’s got great instincts, and he’s done a much better job overall just playing with better pace, which opens things up. The most important thing is, obviously he has the ability to really score the ball at a high level, on nights when he’s not scoring he’s having a big influence on the game, with his defense, assists, and general playmaking. We use him as a screener, he’s setting good screens. So he’s doing a lot of stuff that, to me, is really important for our team and him moving forward.”
LJ Figueroa had a big game as well, with 19 points on 8-13 from the field, including 3-6 on three-pointers, with 3 rebounds. Marvin Clark II had 14 points on 4-7 shooting, including 3-6 on threes, with 7 rebounds and an assist.
St. John's led 29-28 at halftime, and they opened the second half on an 18-4 run capped by a Ponds three-pointer at the 14:42 mark that made it 47-32.
Ponds said of the adjustments the team made going into the second half, “We just had to sit down defensively. I feel like they were getting too many open shots, uncontested looks. So, I mean, we just tightened up on the defensive end eliminated the bugs in transition and we went on a run.”
St. John's never looked back as the second half went on, and a Clark layup with 7:09 left gave them a 20-point lead, 65-45, and they would cruise from there.
“It means a lot," Clark said of their 10-0 start. "I think we haven’t even scratched our surface yet, but I think it means a lot. That’s obviously what we came here to do, to turn this program around. We actually haven’t even really sat down and just thought about it. We’ve just been trying to lock in on getting better and getting ready for Big East play. But it’s an amazing feeling and let’s keep the train rolling.”
Clark said of St. John's being the only undefeated team not to be ranked, “It doesn’t bother us. All we can do is control what we can control and at the end of the day we feel like we want to be the hunters, not the hunted so we don’t mind being where we’re at. At the end of the day, we’re 10-0 and that hasn’t been done here since Coach Mullin was playing. So that’s our main focus. Whatever coaches or whoever votes for the Top 25, we’ll continue to do what we do. It is what it is.”
St. John's is back in action against another New York City opponent on Wednesday night at 6:30 pm when they host St. Francis-Brooklyn at Carnesecca Arena.