Chris Mullin, St. John's, College Basketball
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Without their top two guards on New Year’s Eve, St. John’s was able to play a close, competitive game with Seton Hall thanks to their frontcourt.


Yesterday, St. John’s had to play #23 Seton Hall without arguably their top two guards in Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett due to injury. Despite those absences, the Red Storm were able to keep it close with the Pirates, but fell short 75-70 and are now one of three Big East teams at 0-2 in the conference.

Despite the loss, one of the positives to take away from yesterday’s game was that the frontcourt was a strength for the Red Storm. Their two starting big men, Tariq Owens and Marvin Clark II, combined for 37 points on 14-for-23 shooting.

In his first two games in Big East play, Clark II continues to shine in this offense as he has 38 points and nine rebounds. The four three-pointers he hit in yesterday’s game tied the season high that he had against Arizona State on December 8. Plus, he always seems to have that one highlight dunk.

While this Red Storm team likes to attempt three-pointers, they usually miss a lot more than they make. It was Clark II’s back-to-back trifectas with under 13 minutes to go in the second half that nearly erased a 15-point deficit. The perimeter shooting was much better for St. John’s as they were 9-of-18 from downtown

As for Owens, he was once again efficient with his offense as he was 8-for-12 shooting with a season-high 19 points. He is more known for his defense and his shot blocking ability and he continued to show that yesterday with four blocks. He has now had three or more blocks in nine straight games.

Heading into this game, we talked about how the Red Storm had to try to stop Angel Delgado down low. Delgado still got his usual double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds). However, eight of his 12 rebounds were on the offensive end. While you never want to give a good Seton Hall offense a lot of second chances (14 points in those situations), that is some progress on the glass.

At times, the offense will struggle and that’s to be expected when two of the playmakers are out. With that being said, Justin Simon stepped up yesterday as he had 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists. Also, give Bashir Ahmed credit as he has 16 points for the second time in the last three games.

Defensively, the Red Storm were much better in this game compared to the second half against Providence. But, their main problem continues to be defending the three-point shot. Seton Hall took advantage of that in the first half when they went 10-for-18 from downtown, which led to a ten-point halftime lead.

While the Pirates only made three three-pointers the rest of the way, St. John’s is going to need to defend the perimeter to make these games low scoring. Khadeen Carrington (24 points), Myles Powell (16 points), and Desi Rodriguez (23 points) all had four or more three-pointers in the win for Seton Hall, who is now 2-0 in conference play.

Despite St. John’s being 0-2 in the league, they showed a lot of competitiveness yesterday short-handed that could go a long way as the rest of the conference season unfolds. However, there is still no update on when Ponds and LoVett will be back. Here’s what head coach Chris Mullin had to say yesterday, courtesy of Jaden Daly of Daly Dose of Hoops:

That is not a good sign for a team that is heading out to Omaha to take on #25 Creighton Wednesday that is one of the best offenses in the Big East. In order for the Red Storm to have a chance, they will need to play the great defense that they showed at times in the non-conference slate.

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