Newark, NJ- With their undefeated record on the line, the St. John’s Red Storm traveled to the Prudential Center in Newark to take on the Seton Hall Pirates on Saturday night. The game atmosphere was electric as the stands were packed to welcome in the Big East conference action. Two close friends from their younger days on the AAU circuit, Shamorie Ponds of St. John’s and Myles Powell of Seton Hall would go head-to-head in this highly anticipated match-up.
St. John’s was clearly the aggressor after the opening tip as they jumped out to a 15-4 lead. Seton Hall would compete hard enough to keep the lead within reason as they entered halftime only down by nine points. Mustapha Heron helped St. John’s to their first half lead with four made three-point shots. The deep ball continues to be an impressive asset to Heron’s offensive repertoire this season as he’s shooting an excellent 48.9 percent from deep.
St. John’s continued to control the game well into the second half as they maintained a multiple possession lead until about the five-minute mark when Seton Hall started to rally. Sandro Mamukelashvili ignited the arena of Seton Hall fans as he nailed a three-pointer to tie the game up at 69 with 3:30 left to play. Marvin Clarke II responded right away with his own triple to put St. John’s back up by three points. It looked as though St. John’s would hold on for the win if they could just make one more stop as Seton Hall had the ball in the final possession. Mamukelashvili drove the lane and dished a pass out to Shavar Reynolds on the perimeter for a buzzer beating three-pointer for a 76-74 Pirate win.
Ponds of St. John’s struggled in this contest as he shot 2-of-13 from the field (1-of-6 from three) and totaled only eight points. Consistency in his shooting ability remains a critical weakness in Ponds’ game. He can make up for this in other ways however, as he collects steals in good numbers and dishes out assists to open teammates with fine court vision. In this contest, he had five steals to go with seven assists (but also committed five turnovers). Ponds remains an unfinished product but is still an elite player in the Big East who has a very high ceiling if he can further polish up his inefficiencies.
Heron continues to impress in his first season at St. John’s after transferring from Auburn. He finished this contest with 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting (4-of-8 from deep). His diverse skill set makes him a headache to guard as he can spot up and drill threes with confidence or he can bully-ball his way into the lane for scores with his tight handles and broad shoulders.
Powell led Seton Hall in scoring with 15 points but struggled while only converting on 5- of-15 shot attempts. He’s clearly a competitive guard that has a strong frame at 6-2 and 195 pounds and can really pressure up on defense. As Seton Hall’s leader they’ll need him to be at his best more often in order to take down teams of St. John’s caliber more frequently.