St. John’s faced Central Connecticut Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena. The only previous time it had played the Blue Devils, Lou Carnesecca was the coach, the team was known as the Redmen and not the Red Storm, the building was called Alumni Hall and it was raining points in Queens.
The home team set scoring records on Nov. 24, 1990, that still stand and went on that season to reach the final step before the Final Four.
No one is expecting this St. John’s edition to make the Elite Eight, but there are expectations to finally have a winning record and to make a postseason tournament in the third year of Chris Mullin’s rebuilding project.
St. John’s trounced Central Connecticut, 80-55, in the “rematch” on Tuesday after beating New Orleans by 16 here in the opener on Friday.
“I see a lot of good play, individually and collectively, and a lot of room for improvement,” Mullin said.
Last time, the Red Storm trounced the Blue Devils, 135-92, setting the program’s single-game scoring record. Malik Sealy erupted for 43 points, setting the program’s arena scoring record.
This time, the returning stars, guards Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett, delivered 21 and 15 points, respectively. Ponds also had nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Guard Justin Simon also contributed his first career double-double. The Arizona transfer had career highs of 12 points and 11 rebounds. And the defense forced 21 turnovers for the second straight game.
“I feel like this team is real special,” Ponds said. “I feel we’re all together as a whole. We do everything as a team, so that carries over on the court . . . I feel like we can go pretty far. But we’ve just got to put the work in day in and day out.”
Central Connecticut (0-3) has been without head coach Donyell Marshall and assistant Anthony Anderson since the preseason. Both are on leave after reportedly having an altercation.
The Red Storm led 21-17, and then Michigan State transfer Marvin Clark II buried a three and the Big East team was off on a 20-2 run, building a 41-19 advantage.
“We picked up our pressure, got rebounds, limited them to one shot and got out and ran,” Simon said.
The Blue Devils cut it to 43-27 at halftime and 48-37 with 16 minutes left after Deion Bute (19 points, nine rebounds) scored six in a 10-5 run. But LoVett, who had no points at that point, nailed three threes and converted three other shots to help open it up to as many as 28.
The next game will bring tougher competition. Nebraska from the Big Ten visits Thursday night.
“It’s a great test,” Mullin said. “We’ll have plenty of them coming.”