So, you are a head coach in the Big East Conference and your regular season schedule is winding to a close. One team you are probably hoping not to see left on your ledger is, wait for it…St. John’s! No really, I am serious. If you have not noticed, the Red Storm is red hot of late – just ask Mike Krzyzewski and Jay Wright. What seemed hard to fathom just two weeks ago is suddenly fathomable.
After beating St. Joseph’s on December 20 to run their record to 10-2, the roof caved in on Chris Mullin’s team. Beginning with a home loss in their conference opener to Providence by 22 points, and stretching to a 5 point loss at #6 Xavier, the Johnnies had lost 11 straight contests! From 10-2 to 10-13 in a little over a month. Mullin, the Hall of Fame player, and now head coach in the midst of his third full season at his alma mater, was beginning to hear the rumblings from unhappy alumni and students. Following a rough first season at the helm (8-24), and a somewhat improved sophomore campaign (14-19), much more was expected this year.
In his defense, it is hard to win games when you don’t have your best players available. Case and point (guard) is Marcus Lovett. The sophomore, who was half of last season’s sensational southpaw backcourt duo (alongside Shamorie Ponds), has been out since November 16 with a knee injury. Lovett and Ponds, the two sweet shooting blurs with a basketball, combined to average 33 points per game in 2016/17. However, while his buddy has been sidelined, Mr. Ponds has not only picked up where he left off last season, he has taken his game to a whole new level. His ability to put the ball in the basket at such a high rate from all areas on the floor (behind the arc, drives to the basket, and from the free-throw line), has propelled the Johnnies to the remarkable three-game winning streak that they are on. In their upset of Duke at Madison Square Garden, Ponds rang the bell for 33 points. When they went to the Main Line and defeated Villanova, he poured in 26 points, and in his team’s most recent victory over Marquette, Shamorie scored 44!
Feature photo: MyBookie
Helping fill the Lovett void have been the contributions of two transfers to the program, Justin Simon (Arizona), and Marvin Clark III (Michigan State). They, along with Bashir Ahmed and Tariq Owens have certainly made Mullin look like a better coach of late. Funny how winning a few games can do that for a head coach. Can the Red Storm keep rolling? We shall see. Next up are the DePaul Blue Demons this evening.