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St. John’s Red Storm learning to win in different ways

While yesterday’s 46-43 win by St. John’s over UCF wasn’t pretty, they are finding different ways to win and that’s a good sign.

Sunday in Orlando, FL, St. John’s and Central Florida played a game that might have set the sport back a few years—at least—as the two teams combined for just 89 points. Fortunately, style points do not matter in college basketball, just the result. St. John’s got the win, 46-43, and leaves the state of Florida going 2-1 in the AdvoCare Invitational.

Of course, playing Central Florida was going to be a challenge when you have to try to drive to the basket against 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall. The Red Storm only attempted eight free throws due to UCF having 15 fouls, but they made those foul shots count, shooting 87.5 percent from the charity stripe.

When you barely allow over 40 points, your defense is going to stand out. It’s an area that St. John’s has improved on in the first seven games of the year. The Golden Knights were just 1-for-13 from beyond the arc and committed 21 turnovers (Fall had seven of them in 18 minutes).

The Red Storms’ 65 steals is the most in the Big East and puts St. John’s in a four-way tie for the ninth-highest total in all of DI college basketball. As head coach Chris Mullin told the media after the game—per Zach Braziller of the New York Post—his defense finding ways to win could be great for the team going forward.

If you told any St. John’s fan that Shamorie Ponds would have only six points (1-for-11 shooting) and Marcus LoVett would go 5-for-20 from the floor with 12 points, you would consider that game a loss. However, Ponds did have a team-high 10 rebounds and LoVett had two steals. St. John’s is 6-0 when LoVett has at least one steal in a game.

With Ponds and LoVett having off nights offensively, Marvin Clark II ended up making the most of his opportunities. He drained a trio of three-pointers (11 points), made three of his seven field goal attempts, and had seven rebounds.

From a defensive standpoint, Tariq Owens continues to be a terrific rim protector as he had five blocked shots. In addition to Owens, Justin Simon continues to do a little bit of everything. He had four blocks to go with eight rebounds.

In fact, as the St. John’s men’s basketball Twitter account tweeted out last night, their 15 blocked shots yesterday made some history.

As this team gets into Big East play, the Red Storm will have to find a way to win on nights when their offense isn’t clicking on all cylinders. Yesterday’s win wasn’t pretty, but it counts all the same.

So far, St. John’s is 6-1 and hasn’t had a bad loss yet. That’s a great sign for this program. With one month of non-conference play left and plenty of time to pick up a quality win, whether it’s against Arizona State next Friday or when the Big East slate begins later in December.

I graduated from St. John's University with a degree in sports management. I previously wrote about the Johnnies at Rumble In the Garden.