The Torch

Storm Watch: St. John’s has Turned its Season Around

The team never lost sight of their goal. Now, it's starting to pay off.

Torch Photo/Nick Bello

Torch Photo/Nick Bello

Derrell Bouknight, Sports Editor

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Chris Mullin has reiterated the same thing time and time again, never losing sight, or hope, of a win.

Even when his team started Big East play winless in 11 games after a 10-2 start, the third-year head coach refused to lose faith and always believed there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

“I’ve been telling you guys, you think I’m crazy, but we’ve been right there in all of these games,” Mullin said after St. John’s snapped their skid in a stunning win over then-No. 4 Duke. “There’s nothing like a win to make you feel better.”

The matchup with the Blue Devils was the second of three consecutive games against top-10 opponents.

The Red Storm lost to Xavier four days earlier by five points, and hadn’t lost to a ranked team by more than seven points all year.

After the game against the Musketeers, a 73-68 defeat, Mullin said that the team was in the right position to win. A corner just had to be turned.

“[The team] knows that they’re right there,” he said. “There’s no disputing that.”

15 days later and the team is on a three-game winning streak.

The team followed up their win over Duke with another upset against conference foe Villanova last Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Not only was it the team’s first Big East win of the season, but a turning point indicating that St. John’s was playing with hunger and determination that was absent for much of the conference schedule.

By early January, things seemed to be heading in the wrong direction. Marcus LoVett was injured and the school announced he’d miss the rest of the year.

For the second time in three years, St. John’s started 0-11 in the Big East. But Mullin and his players never lost faith. But maybe the most significant change has been the big-game performances of sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds.

Marvin Clark II called him one of the best players he’s ever played with, praising him as a great playmaker and an unselfish teammate.

Mullin admitted that Ponds is much better than he was in college, saying that it’s “not even close,” and Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he was the best offensive guard his team had faced all season.

Over his last four games, Ponds has averaged 33.5 points.

In Saturday’s sold out game against Marquette, Ponds continued his dynamic scoring, netting a career-high 44 on 16-23 shooting.

“It felt good to see the ball go in, trying to mix it up,” Ponds said. “I was confident the entire game. I just try to keep the foot on the gas.”

After the game against the Golden Eagles, the Big East named Ponds its Player of the Week for the second straight week.

NCAA.com also awarded him with National Player of the Week honors.

Justin Simon, who recorded two double-doubles last week, said the Red Storm are coming around at the right point in time.

“Like I said, it’s about time,” Simon said after Saturday’s game. “We were getting that feeling that it’s about time. We had a tough stretch starting conference play 0-11. All we needed was one, and we’re going to keep it going.”

St. John’s has five games remaining in the regular season, starting with Wednesday’s game against DePaul. They’ll meet Marquette again in Wisconsin before a Garden matchup with Seton Hall.

The team will close out the season at home with Butler and on the road against Providence.

Mullin won’t change anything, and he’ll keep doing what he’s stuck to all season.

“No matter what goes on you have your core values and you stick to them,” Mullin said. “When you stick to your routine, assuming you have a good routine that is, that’s how you gain respect.

Now, the whole country is on notice.

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Storm Watch: St. John’s has Turned its Season Around