By Josh Adams, @NCAAHoopsDigest
Queens, NY- It’s not often that any Nebraska team looks uncomfortable in a sea of red. Tonight in Queens, the St. John’s Red Storm did just that with stifling defense that shipwrecked the Cornhuskers and gave the Big East another win over a Big 10 opponent in the Gavitt Games on Thursday.
Red Storm Coach Chris Mullin called tonight’s victory for the Red Storm (3-0) the most complete game his team has played since he became coach of his alma mater three years ago. St. John’s was relentless on both offense and defense from the opening tip and flustered the visiting Nebraska (2-1) team in front of 4,652 fans at Carnesecca Arena on Thursday night. It was the first time these two schools have played each other and the look on the Nebraska players faces after the final buzzer indicated they wouldn’t want to come back to St. John’s campus anytime soon.
The dynamic back court of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett made several highlight reel plays that sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
(Ponds has the knack for throwing the alley-oop and he connected with Bashir Ahmed on this fast break. )
LoVett credited the home crowd with helping the energy level of the team. ” We wanted to come out with a lot of energy. We started the game like that, and we finished the game like that” He added, ” To see the whole atmosphere of the gym, it was beautiful to be in that environment”.
Ponds had 22 points to lead the Red Storm. Ahmed had 15 points and LoVett had 14 points. St. John’s forward Justin Simon had his second consecutive double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
James Palmer Jr. led Nebraska with 13 points. The Cornhuskers shot an anemic 28% from the field on Thursday.
While Nebraska fielded a much taller lineup, the Red Storm won the battle of rebounds by a 50-39 margin. The Johnnies defense caused 16 Cornhusker turnovers. All of the hustle stats belonged to the home team. The effort made the normally stoic Mullin almost crack a smile in the press conference after the game.
“Tonight was the first game I felt like they knew what they were doing.”, said Mullin reflecting on how the team played exactly how they have practiced.
They’ll be some growing pains for the Red Storm as the year progresses. The next test will be the The Advocare Invitational with West Virginia and Missouri as a potential opponents next weekend in Orlando. Yet tonight, for a program that has so much history and playing in a series that was named for the Big East’s founder (Dave Gavitt) the St. John’s Red Storm gave the alumni, the current students and their coach a gift tonight. It was the gift of optimism that hasn’t been felt in a few seasons. It’s an energy just like LoVett described and it’s contagious. That energy can carry a team and it’s fans through some tough games and maybe lift them to the lofty heights they’ve dreamed of for years.