There were the humbling losses to Delaware State and LIU. Oh, and don’t forget Penn State ripping off 35 of 40 points in one stunning run and beating them. But St. John’s young guys also flashed potential last week with a 33-point Orange crush — Syracuse’s worst lost in its Carrier Dome history.
It was 13 games, six wins and seven losses, preparation for the journey through the unforgiving Big East schedule. St. John’s absorbed 17 conference losses in 18 games and 24 losses in 32 games overall last season in Year One of Chris Mullin’s reconstruction job, but it has added some talented reinforcements.
The conference schedule tipped off last night at soldout Carnesecca Arena against 13th-ranked Butler, a team that swept St. John’s the previous two seasons.
The Red Storm made another statement, rallying from 10 points down with 10:30 left to stun the Bulldogs, 76-73.
“I feel people are sleeping on us,” junior swingman Bashir Ahmed said. “It’s time to wake them up.”
Guard Shamorie Ponds, the Big East Preseason Freshman of the year, poured in 26 points, including four free throws in the final 9.1 seconds. Ahmed, a JUCO transfer, contributed 19 points.
“I guess time will tell, but I think we felt we were playing a team that was markedly better,” Bulldogs coach Chris Holtmann said.
It was 71-71 and Tyler Lewis missed a three for Butler. Kelan Martin fouled Malik Ellison going for the rebound with 14.1 seconds left. Ellison made the first and missed the second. But another new guy, Tariq Owens, grabbed the rebound and was tied up — St. John’s ball. Ponds was fouled with 9.1 seconds left and made both. Lewis was fouled at 6.7 and made two to get it down to 74-73.
“I was just confident going to the foul line, just saying, ‘I’m going to make these two free throws,’ ” Ponds said.
So Butler fouled Ponds half a second later, and he made both again. “He’s a really phenomenal player,” Mullin said.
Andrew Chrabascz went for the tie and missed. Darien Williams grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 1.7 on the clock, but he missed both.
Martin let fly from near midcourt and hit the rim.
Butler (11-2) led 61-51 but the Red Storm (7-7) rallied, urged on by a loud crowd. After Tyler Wideman (20 points) gave Butler a 71-69 lead, Marcus LoVett, another of the new guys, tied it with 41.1 seconds left.
“I know it’s going to be fine,” Mullin said. “I know we’re going to get to where we want to go.”
Thursday night was a step in the right direction.