Queens, NY – The St. John’s Red Storm took the court Tuesday night against the Central Connecticut Blue Devils at Carnesseca Arena, coming off an impressive victory to open the season against New Orleans. CCSU meanwhile, had dropped their first two contests and is still without head coach Donyell Marshall, who has been on leave since November 2nd stemming from an altercation with assistant coach Anthony Anderson. St. John’s is led by their explosive sophomore backcourt, Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds, while CCSU is led by JUCO transfer Tyler Kohl.
Shortly following the opening tip, it became evident that Central Connecticut simply did not have the firepower to keep up with St. John’s talent and athleticism. The Red Storm were able to push the pace and attack CCSU in transition, while also hurting them from the 3-point line (42.9% for the game). While St. John’s lacks size, their small ball lineup allows them to aggressively defend and switch the perimeter, pressuring opponents into turnovers. This was the case against CCSU, as St. John’s forced 21 turnovers resulting in 31 points. Central Connecticut’s Tyler Kohl, who was averaging over 20 ppg entering Tuesday’s game, was held to just one point and was responsible for six of CCSU’s 21 turnovers. Points off turnovers and effective 3-point shooting were the difference makers, as St. John’s coasted by Central Connecticut, 80-55.
Ponds led the way for St. Johns with 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. His contributions began on the defensive end, pressuring ball handlers and effectively bringing help following post entry passes. Ponds also put in effort on the boards, coming down with seven defensive rebounds. The combination of forced turnovers and defensive rebounds allowed Ponds to repeatedly get out in space and start the break, where he is at his best. Ponds, a lefty, attacked the rim relentlessly in transition and in the halfcourt, getting to the line a dozen times while shooting 83 percent from the charity stripe.
Arizona transfer Justin Simon continued to make an early impact for the Red Storm, adding 12 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals. The 6-5 Simon’s ability to crash the offensive glass has helped offset St. John’s lack of size, as the sophomore swingman grabbed four offensive rebounds including two impressive tip-ins. The athletic Simon has proved to be a near perfect running mate for Ponds and LoVett thus far, adding another perimeter defender who excels at running the floor and filling the wing in transition.
St. John’s looks to continue their hot start this Wednesday with another home matchup against 2-0 Nebraska.