Wednesday, December 19, 2018

St. John's Storms Past St. Francis Brooklyn To Go To 11-0

Mikey Dixon puts one up from long range. @StJohnsBball.

For the second time in four days, St. John's beat a fellow New York City team at Carnesecca Arena in dominant fashion.

St. John's storm past St. Francis Brooklyn, 86-52, on Wednesday night to continue the perfect start to their season.

St. John's improved to 11-0 on the season, one of just nine unbeaten teams remaining in the nation.

The Red Storm continued its best start to a season since the 1982-83 campaign, when they won a school record 14-straight games to begin the campaign.

St. John's jumped out to a 14-6 lead in the first seven minutes, capped by a down-the-lane dunk from Mikey Dixon that got the crowd going. That lead built up to 26-12 on a Dixon layup with 7:50 left.
St. Francis rallied back in the late stages of the first half, pulling within 31-23 on a Yaradyah Evans dunk with 1:53 left.

St. Francis was trailing 34-25 with five seconds left when Jalen Jordan missed a jumper, and Justin Simon got the rebound, raced the other end, and got it to Dixon, who buried an open three-pointer as time expired to give St. John's a 12-point edge, 37-25, at the half.

St. John's kept the momentum going into the second half, and Marvin Clark II made the play of the night when he blocked Jalen Jordan's layup at the 18:02 mark.

St. John's opened up the second half on an 8-0 run capped by an LJ Figueroa layup that made it 45-25. That eventually ballooned to 64-33 (an 11-0 run at the time) on a Greg Williams Jr. dunk, and they never looked back.

Williams finished with 8 points, 6 of them in the second half, on 4-5 from the field, with 3 rebounds, off the bench in 16 minutes.

This was Williams' first significant action of the season, and St. John's Head Coach Chris Mullin said of the freshman guard, "“I have confidence in Greg. He has been much better in practice last week. I like his game and physically, he’s fine. I like his feel for the game. He can make a shot, he can drive the ball, and he has a good feel for the game. I have confidence in him.”

St. John's was led by Dixon and Figueroa, who each had 13 points. Dixon scored 10 points in the first half and shot 5-9 from the field, including 1-4 from behind the arc, with 3 rebounds and an assist. Figueroa had 9 of his points in the first half, and he just missed a double-double as he racked up 9 rebounds, while shooting 6-13 overall and 1-2 on three-pointers.

Shamorie Ponds had another nice outing, as he had 12 points (4-8 FG), 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in 25 minutes. On Sunday against Wagner, he had a historic performance when he had 16 points, 14 assists, and 9 rebounds.

St. John's shot 54 percent (34-63) in this one, while holding St. Francis to basically half of that, 27.7 percent (18-65).

On whether this was the team’s best performance of the season, Mullin said, “Getting away from the scoreboard, I thought our defensive activity and communication was much better, more in tune to the game. That fuels an offense. When you do that it creates a positive energy and then the ball moves and shots go in...

“I thought it was a good game. The scoreboard is one thing, we’ve played well, let some leads slip, but that’s part of the game. I’m just not really here to throw a party. We won the game, we’re trying to move on and we have another game Saturday, which we’ll prepare for. The schedule’s out. Some people don’t like it. I don’t care. And then whoever we play next, we’ll watch our film on them, prepare to defend them, and how we’re going to attack them offensively. And that’s that.”

Marvin Clark II finished with 12 points (3-5 FG, 2-4 three-pointers), 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Clark said of the team’s progress that was shown in this game, “I wouldn’t even call it a step forward, it’s a step in the right direction. I think we’ve been capable of playing at this level for a while. We were finally locked in mentally tonight and that was the result.”

On if this was the team’s best performance this year, Clark said, “I would probably say so. Collectively, as a unit, physically, and the way the points were spread out, I would probably say this was our best performance. Rutgers was a really great performance too.”

Despite the 11-0 start, St. John's is still not ranked in the Top 25. Clark said of the media's questioning their strength of schedule as a reason to keep them unranked, “We hear the noise, but we block it all out. We can only control what we can control. The rankings are rankings. At the end of the day, anybody can beat anybody. We’ve seen that, with some of the top teams that have lost to smaller schools. It really doesn’t bother us. It is what it is. We are just going to keep going with it. It doesn’t bother us. We will continue to work and continue to get better.”

St. John's has one more non-conference game as they host Sacred Heart at Carnesecca Arena on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. They open Big East play on December 29 at Seton Hall.

Mullin said of whether his team is ready for Big East play, “We always spend more time analyzing and dissecting our team and our [next] game. We’ve seen progress and we’ve seen slippage in different areas in different games so whatever that might be, that’s what those games are for to get ready and I think we’re progressing nicely.”

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