NEWARK — Outmanned and outgunned, St. John’s made a stand on the road Sunday against No. 23 Seton Hall. The Red Storm eventually dropped a wild 75-70 Big East contest at Prudential Center. But even in defeat, this team glimpses its potential.
Leading scorer Shamorie Ponds was sidelined by the left knee injury he suffered in Thursday’s loss to Providence. Second-leading scorer Marcus LoVett missed his seventh straight game with a left knee sprain. Yet with just six scholarship players available — and a single ballhandler in Justin Simon — St. John’s gave the Pirates all they could handle.
“A game like this will win games for us down the road,” coach Chris Mullin said. “The looks and different roles — the guys I thought stepped up big-time — it was a great effort.”
Tariq Owens led the Storm with 19 points and 14 rebounds. “We’ve seen what level we can really reach,” he said. “We took it to a whole new level.”
Seton Hall, which averages seven three-pointers per game, sank 13 of its first 24 and had the Storm in a 58-43 hole with just over 13 minutes to play.
“We didn’t get discouraged,” Mullin said. The Storm answered with a 15-2 run that included three three-pointers from forward Marvin Clark II, the third of which drew St. John’s within 60-58 with 7:07 to play.
St. John’s (10-4, 0-2) got two chances to tie it. With the Storm trailing by two, Simon missed the front end of a one-and-one with 6:31 left, and with St. John’s down three, Clark missed a good look on a three-pointer with 2:26 remaining.
Clark scored 18 points, Bashir Ahmed had 16 and Simon added 15 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for St. John’s.
Khadeen Carrington scored 24 points and Desi Rodriguez 23 for the Pirates (13-2, 2-0).
“We told ourselves, ‘We’re still in this game.’ Down 10 on the road to one of the top 25 teams in the country, we took it to another level,” Clark said. “In that we showed, without our top two scorers, there are other players on this team that are very talented and very versatile — that we’re a very good team.”
There is an urgency to get Ponds and LoVett back before the sky falls on the Storm. Nevertheless, Mullin said they are “day-to-day” and makes no predictions. “We’re going to make sure they’re healthy before they get on the court,” he said. “They’re young and have great careers ahead of them, so they aren’t going to jeopardize their health for anything.”
Mullin added, “We stepped up in different areas and confidence, and when we get a full, healthy lineup, I think it’s going to win us games.”
“To me, that’s a scary sight. That’s a scary thing to think about,” Clark said. “If we’re all clicking — and today was actually one of the first games we were all clicking — having them back . . . we’re going to be good.”