St. John’s humiliating loss at Providence on Wednesday raised plenty of questions. One stands out above them all.
No, it’s not about the up-and-down nature of this team, which plays well against top teams and doesn’t bring its best against the rest. It’s about Shamorie Ponds.
Will the Red Storm guard — who is averaging 19.5 points — bounce back from three straight substandard games?
He didn’t score for the first 25 of those 40 minutes against the Friars and ended up tying a season low with four points, shooting 2-for-9. In the previous game, a win over No. 17 Villanova, he scored 11 points and was 2-for-14 from the floor. In the past three games, Ponds has averaged 9.7 points and shot 22.9 percent (8-for-35).
Ponds said he is not getting “lift” on his shots and coach Chris Mullin said he isn’t playing with the same pace. The 6-1 junior conceded he’s experienced soreness in both knees, but he assigns no blame there.
“I’ve been missing shots, playing bad, playing real bad. I’ve just got to turn it around,” Ponds said Friday as the Red Storm (19-8, 7-7) prepared to face Seton Hall (16-10, 7-7) at the Garden on Saturday night in a battle for sole possession of third place in the Big East. “I’m not playing the type of basketball I play, so I’ve definitely got to turn it around.”
Though the Red Storm won two of those last three games, everything they hope to accomplish in the next two weeks — finishing above .500 in conference play, ramping up for the conference tournament and making a case for a favorable NCAA Tournament seeding instead of an argument just to be included — will be a lot easier with a vintage Ponds.
“We need to get back to having fun, getting my swagger back,” Ponds said. “It’s going to determine a lot.”
A sellout crowd is expected, and though the Red Storm players say it’s no longer on their minds, most who attend won’t have forgotten the outrageous last seconds of the Pirates’ 76-74 win in their first meeting Dec. 29.
St. John’s led 74-73 when LJ Figueroa deflected an inbounds pass under the basket, leaped to save the ball and got it to Mustapha Heron. One official made what the conference would call an “error in judgment” by blowing a whistle to stop play in the midst of it. Seton Hall was given the ball back and Shavar Reynolds made a three-pointer with four-tenths of a second left.
“They beat us and that’s the only motivation we need,” Ponds said. “We’re just going to try to return the favor.”
Marvin Clark II will be feted before the game as part of senior night. The 6-7 forward did not wish to revisit the technical that fouled him out with 17:28 to play Wednesday or the subsequent technical that resulted in his ejection.
But Clark is looking forward to Ponds’ performance against Seton Hall.
“Two things about Shamorie,” he said, “are if he’s down, he’s never down for too long, and he never disappoints his hometown.”