|Marvin Clark II battling DePaul's Femi Olujobi.|
The St. John's Red Storm will open the Big East Tournament on Wednesday night against DePaul, with tip-off around 9:30 p.m.
The Red Storm finished the regular season with three straight losses, which left their Big East Conference record at 8-9 and saw them drop to seventh place from third, missing a bye in the tournament.
DePaul beat St. John's twice in the regular season, a 79-71 win at Carnesecca Arena on January 12 when the Red Storm were without Ponds, and a 92-83 triumph in Chicago on March 3 when Max Strus scored 48 points.
Shamorie Ponds, Marvin Clark II and Mustapha Heron spoke the media following practice at Baruch College on Tuesday night.
Junior guard Shamorie Ponds:
On what the team needs to do different tomorrow night: “I think we just need to go out there and play our game. I feel like the last three games we’ve lost in a row we weren’t ourselves. We had stretches where we played well, but I think we have to string together 40 minutes in order to get a W.”
On what makes the team successful: “Our defense. I mean we translate everything from our defense.”
On how to turn around from the team’s 0-3 regular-season finish: “It’s 0-0, brand new start. So we have an opportunity and we have to take advantage.”
On the difference in playing opening night with an NCAA at-large bid in the equation: “It’s definitely different, last year we didn’t have the opportunity [to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament] so we have to take advantage. We have to go out there, play our game and get this win tomorrow night.”
On whether it feels like the team’s chances of going to the NCAA Tournament are on the line: “I would say yes and I would say no. We had a bad ending, but you just can’t take away what we did, the games we won. But it’s definitely tough since we lost three in a row, so we definitely have to turn it around now.”
On whether the team should play like its season is on the line: “Definitely, every game should be with a chip on your shoulder. So we definitely have to go out there for 40 minutes and string together our St. John’s Basketball.”
On whether the team is confident they can beat DePaul after losing twice in the regular season: “I’m pretty sure our team is confident. I’m confident that we can win this game. There’s not much to say. We just have to go out there and get it done.”
Redshirt senior forward Marvin Clark II:
On the atmosphere surrounding the team: “It’s a new season, so we’re just focused on tomorrow’s game and really just preparing for that. Honestly, just been trying to re-lock in, re-focus, get new life, let those last three games go. Gotta make the best out of tomorrow.”
On how the team can regain its focus: “It’s just a new season. 0-0 tomorrow. Everything that happened last week, after that it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s tournament mode. It’s March Madness mode, so now we’re just locked into that. Win the next game.”
On the difference between playing on Wednesday night of the Big East Tournament this year compared to last year: “It’s definitely not a position we want to be in, but it’s the cards we were dealt, the cards we dealt ourselves honestly, so we got to do what we got to, but I believe that this team is built for this. Built for March, built for the matchups, we just have to go out there and lay it all out on the line.”
On whether getting into the NCAA Tournament depends on tomorrow’s game: “For sure. I think the Big East Tournament, how we play, how we perform in this is really going to dictate where we stand, if we’re going to be playing in late March or not. We have to lock in, focus and really it’s just one game, so lock in for a game and go from there.”
On taking advantage of mismatches against DePaul: “It’s key. It’s really just the start of the game. The first 10 minutes are going to dictate everything. At their place we did for the first 20 minutes I guess, and then things got out of whack and we let [Max] Strus get loose, so we honestly just have to play fast from the jump.”
Junior guard Mustapha Heron:
On the right mindset to have going into tomorrow’s game: “Fresh start. 0-0.”
On whether it’s easy to stay confident despite two regular-season losses to DePaul: “Yeah, I mean it’s 0-0. Everything that happened in the past [is in the past]. Realistically, everyone’s talking about us making the [NCAA] Tournament and stuff, you could lose all 31 games, go win this and make the Tournament, so I think that 0-0 start is the mentality we have to have going into this game.”
On why the team’s athleticism and quickness hasn’t been as much of a factor of late: “I think we go away from that a little bit and that’s something that we have to focus on. I think we play a little slow. Sometimes we tend to play a little slow for whatever [reason], but I think that has to be in the back of our mind that we have to play fast the whole game, 40 minutes, up-and-down and it will work in our favor.”
On whether there’s been a shift in confidence: “No, because it’s sports. People win and lose games, so I think that we put enough work in to know that your confidence doesn’t go anywhere. It stays with your whether you win or lose.”
On whether tomorrow is a must-win: “Our mindset going in is that we’re playing for four games. That’s our mindset. We’re trying to go one game at a time to get to four games. It’s just taking care of tomorrow night and doing what we’re supposed to do and then hopefully we’ll come out with a win.”