Shamorie Ponds took St. John’s somewhere it hadn’t been in 36 seasons on Sunday.
The spectacular junior controlled nearly the entire second half as the Red Storm raced away from Wagner for a 73-58 non-conference victory at Carnesecca Arena. That made St. John’s 10-0 for the first time since coach Chris Mullin was a sophomore on the 1982-83 squad, which won its first 14.
Brooklyn product Ponds was nothing short of brilliant in scoring or assisting on 11 of the Red Storm’s 12 baskets after the break. He finished with 16 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds and one turnover.
“His playmaking ability was always there,” Mullin said. “It’s a gift. Guys see the game or they don’t.”
Ponds’ 14 assists put him in a tie for fourth for a single game in program history. It was the most for a Red Storm player since Omar Cook’s 15 against Connecticut on Jan. 6, 2001. Cook and Mark Jackson recorded the three performances of 15 or more. Ponds nearly posted the first triple-double since then-Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) recorded one 20 seasons ago.
The figures are displayed on the Carnesecca Arena scoreboard, and Ponds and Mullin saw the triple-double within reach. Mullin let him play a couple of extra minutes with the reserves but ultimately removed him with 1:56 to play.
“It was coming to the end of the game and the game was kind of over, so I was trying to get it. But things happen,” Ponds said. “I wasn’t upset [at Mullin]. I wanted to get it, but I know where Coach is coming from. He didn’t want me to get hurt. So I respect it.”
Ponds already was in double figures for points and assists when he hauled in his ninth rebound with 6:38 to play, juicing the announced crowd of 5,602 with anticipation for one more.
“We left him in a little bit extra, but it didn’t work out. I kind of was [disappointed], but that’s the way the ball bounces,” Mullin said. “He played a heck of a game; 14 assists with one turnover, to me, is the most important thing . . . pretty incredible.”
St. John’s record of triple-doubles before Artest’s is not complete, but three other players have come as close as Ponds since. Nurideen Lindsey missed by one assist against UMBC in 2011-12, Sir’Dominic Pointer missed by one rebound against Fordham in 2013-14 and current Storm player Justin Simon missed by one assist last season against Saint Joseph’s.
LJ Figueroa scored 19 points and Marvin Clark II had 14 for St. John’s. Romone Saunders scored 17 for Wagner (4-5).
The last Red Storm team to open 10-0 ended up 28-5 and played two games in the NCAA Tournament, but this team has yet to command any national attention. There are only nine unbeaten teams left of the 353 in Division I and St. John’s is the only one not in the Top 25 (though it is receiving votes).
Asked about still being on the outside looking in, Ponds and Clark shrugged it off.
“I was never the type to care about rankings. It’s just a number,” Ponds said. “Anybody can be beat. I pay it no mind.”
Added Clark: “We do what we can control — and at the end of the day, we’d rather be the hunter than the hunted.”
The biggest factor for not being ranked might be the Red Storm’s weak schedule (so far), but 10-0 is 10-0.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, it matters how we’re playing,” Clark said. “It will fall into place whenever it falls into place.”