After Slow Start, St. John’s Takes Care of Molloy

Led by a second half turnaround and a 22-2 run, the Johnnies were able to pull away from Molloy to start 4-0 for the first time since 2014.


Torch Photo/Nick Bello

Bashir Ahmed helped spark a second half turnaround for the Red Storm Monday night against Molloy.

Derrell Bouknight, Co-Sports Editor

The coach and the player described the performance of the team with the same word.

First it was redshirt junior forward Marvin Clark II, who called St. John’s first half performance against Molloy Monday night lackadaisical. Minutes later, it was Mullin, who uttered the same word before praising his team for the way they played the final 20 minutes of their 71-43 victory.

With low energy and a errors that cost them buckets on the offensive end, the Red Storm fought with the Lions for much of the first half before building a lead before the break. Molloy led 7-4 at the first media timeout, their biggest lead being five points with 9:16 remaining.

Despite playing sound defense, St. John’s had trouble connecting on shots. The team shot 1-13 from the 3-point line in the opening half, many of which were taken with no defenders in sight. Open shots that the team saw fall in the first three games did not against Molloy, a Division II school that came into the game with a 1-3 record.

The seesaw battle between the teams finally ended once the Johnnies took the lead for good, going into halftime with a 28-21 lead. Much of that was due to ten forced turnovers by St. John’s, which led to 11 points.

“To me, we have to be the aggressor,” Mullin said after the game. “Set the tone, set the pace, first and foremost defensively. But I think they did a good job in the second half of picking that up.”

The difference between the first and second halves was immediately noticeable once the game continued. Clark II took a charge on the first play, igniting a crowd that remained quiet for the majority of the first 20 minutes. A three-pointer from guard Shamorie Ponds put St. John’s up by 10 before a Clark II and-one play minutes later but the team up 35-21, forcing Molloy Head Coach Charles Marquardt to call timeout.

The Red Storm began to run away with the game before the midway point of the second half. Two consecutive post-ups from Clark II led to made shots in the lane, an where area the Johnnies outscored Molloy 40-12 for the game.

A transition dunk from Bashir Ahmed put St. John’s up 50-23 with 12:34 to go in the game, one of the many highlights of a 22-2 run that lasted over eight minutes.

“They didn’t really have any shot-blockers or [anything],” Ahmed, who was tied for the game-high with 14 points, said after the game. “So we just wanted to attack, get to the basket, get to the line and just try to get a rhythm going.”

Ponds, who was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll earlier in the day, also scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds. Justin Simon nearly recorded a triple-double with seven points, nine assists and 11 rebounds.

Curtis Jenkins, who scored 10 points in the first half for Molloy, was limited to four in the second half, going 1-6 from the field. He added 14 rebounds to finish with a double-double.

After shooting 33% from the field in the first half, the Johnnies turned it around, shooting just over 58% in the second and close to 45% for the game. The St. John’s bench outscored Molloy’s 18-6, half of those points coming from Amar Alibegovic.

Monday’s contest marked the first time in the Mullin era that his team has started 4-0, the last time being the 2014-2015 season, the year before Mullin took over the program. The team will head to Orlando, Fl. to participate in the AdvoCare Invitational, where they will face off against Oregon State Thursday afternoon.

Their second game will be against either Missouri or Long Beach State on Friday before their final game on Sunday. The team will then return for another home contest against Sacred Heart Dec. 2 before traveling to Arizona to take on Grand Canyon.