A team on a losing streak cannot afford to look past an opponent yet that’s exactly what St. John’s did on Tuesday night to disastrous results.
The Red Storm got a matchup against a Delaware State team whose only win came against a Division III foe and thought that just showing up would bring an end to its run of four straight losses. Instead it got beaten, 79-72, before 4,109 at Carnesecca Arena, perhaps the most embarrassing loss for the program in coach Chris Mullin’s two seasons.
Sophomore Federico Mussini said St. John’s “didn’t put enough energy in,” but when asked if the players had looked past Delaware State replied “I think that was our problem too. When we play big teams, everybody is high and everybody is ready from the beginning. So we’ve just got to respect everybody.”
St. John’s (2-5) — losers of five straight — held only two leads in the game, 10-7 and 21-19, and played substandard on both ends. It allowed Delaware State (2-5) to shoot 58 percent from the field, including 8-for-15 on three-pointers. And when it had the ball, the Storm didn’t make an effort to exploit its size advantage and settled for threes. Of St. John’s first 23 shots, 17 were outside the arc; it finished 12-for-37 from long distance.
“Some shots, we were just rushing them,” said junior Bashir Ahmed, who finished with 19 points. “I guess we thought we had open looks but some of the shots we took weren’t good shots . . . I think we’re thinking too much.”
The Storm also hurt itself with 14 turnovers that led to 16 Hornets points.
“Our defense was horrible, one-on-one and as a team. I thought we lost trust in each other,” Mullin said. “They scored at will . . . the rhythm of the game from our standpoint was dominated by them. They shot 64 percent in the first half and 58 percent for the game — that’s where the game was lost and won.”
Shamorie Ponds had 15 points, Marcus Lovett had 13 points and Mussini had 11 points. Devin Morgan scored 26 to lead Delaware State.
The Hornets took their biggest lead at 63-48 on a Morgan three-pointer with 9:56 to play. St. John’s mounted a rally with a full-court press. It closed to within 69-63 after Ponds scored on a drive, made a backcourt steal on the ensuing possession and scored again with 3:16 left. But the Storm’s next six possessions ended with four missed shots and two turnovers as the Hornets returned the lead to 13.
Mussini was asked if he’d felt worse after a loss and said “I don’t know — this really hurts us because we talked about it. We made sure we were going to come out tough and play hard but we didn’t.”