Despite not having their superstar in Shamorie Ponds Wednesday night, St. John’s still found a way to upset Butler in double overtime with a collective effort.
On Senior Night at Carnesecca Arena Wednesday night, St. John’s had a monumental task to try to overcome. While upset wins have been common for the Red Storm this year, they had to try to beat a Butler team with 19 wins and they did not have superstar Shamorie Ponds, who was out with an abdominal strain:
Shamorie Ponds is out for tonight's game against Butler with an abdominal strain. He's listed as day-to-day. #SJUBB
— Howie Kussoy (@HowieKussoy) March 1, 2018
Despite not having Ponds, St. John’s still found a way to pull off the 75-68 upset win in double overtime. Depth is a problem for the Red Storm as is, but to win this game with only having seven players speaks to the character and toughness this team has had all season long.
Let’s start with the two seniors who got honored before the game. Bashir Ahmed has been known to be inconsistent with his scoring. But, against Butler, he had 22 points, and was efficient in getting to that total (7-for-14). It was the most points he has scored in a game since Feb 1, 2017 (23 points against Marquette).
As for the other senior, Amar Alibegovic did an excellent job on the defensive end. He did not make a basket on offense, but he had six rebounds and played a key part on the perimeter as the Bulldogs only shot 28.6 percent from downtown.
When Ponds isn’t on the floor, it is up to Justin Simon to be the floor general and find ways to help out on the offensive end. The sophomore played 50 minutes and had his eighth double-double of the season (24 points, 10 rebounds). Down the stretch, he was taking the ball to the basket, which is his go-to move.
— St. John's BBall (@StJohnsBBall) March 1, 2018
If Ponds comes back next year, then Simon’s value as a second point guard will help this offense even more. In addition, those two continue to build up their chemistry from a defensive perspective. Simon’s four steals on Wednesday were the most he had in a game since Jan. 20 at Georgetown (four).
Of course, Simon’s heroics down the stretch would not have happened if it wasn’t for Marvin Clark II. Clark’s three-pointer with the Red Storm down five at the end of regulation cut the deficit to two. Then, his defense on the ensuing inbounds pass helped force a turnover to set up the game-tying basket by Simon.
While St. John’s has its ugly moments on offense sometimes, it’s their defense that is going to keep them in every game that they play in. They are active in getting their hands up in the backcourt and in the overtimes, Butler had a tough time getting to the rim when Tariq Owens was standing in their way.
For St. John’s, Wednesday night had to be about some kind of redemption. Back on Jan. 27, the Red Storm were embarrassed at Hinkle Fieldhouse when they were blown out by Butler, 70-45. They were able to bring the effort to the court and had a 12-point lead at one point in the second half.
With the win on Wednesday, St. John’s might have put themselves in the best position possible to make a Big East Tournament run. If DePaul loses against Xavier on Saturday, the Red Storm will be facing Georgetown in the first round of the conference tournament Wednesday night.
Yes, St. John’s lost both games against the Hoyas in the regular season, but they were by a combined seven points and one of them went into double overtime. If St. John’s wins that game, they will likely play Xavier in the quarterfinals. One of the teams that have given the Musketeers a hard time all season in conference play is St. John’s.
True, the season hasn’t been what the players, fans, or alums thought it was going to be like. However, despite the lack of results, it is a fun to watch seven players give it their all and get the well-earned result like what happened against Butler on Wednesday.