By Dan Gardella
Queens, NY – Since this past summer when Mustapha Heron transferred to St. John’s, it was clear that Chris Mullin had all the pieces he needed in order to get over the hump and make that elusive NCAA Tournament. They closed their arguably weak non-conference schedule by welcoming NEC foe Sacred Heart to Queens for the second year in a row.
From the get-go it was in the Johnnies favor as they put five players in double figures once again, including 23 first half points for Marvin Clark as they rolled over the Pioneers 104-82.
From the opening tip off, St. John’s stepped on the gas pedal and sped away before the Pioneers could blink. The Johnnies held Sacred Heart scoreless for the first three minutes and proceeded to begin the game on a 14-0 run.
After Aaron Clarke got Sacred Heart on the board with a triple, Marvin Clark II decided to take matters into his own hands offensively. On four straight possessions, Clark would be in a position to step into fairly uncontested three pointers to put the lead to 19 just five and a half minutes in.
“I was feeling good and my teammates did a great job putting me in positions to catch and shoot. I felt great finding my confidence,” Clark said.
The lead would remain in double digits until the ten minute mark when Sean Hoehn converted on a layup to make it 33-24. The Pioneers would fight back and cut the lead to single digits on numerous occasions but could never get closer than eight.
St. John’s would go into the locker room at the halftime break leading 53-38.
The second half would begin with a little life for the Pioneers. Baskets inside from Jare’l Spellman and EJ Anosike followed by a three pointer by Koreem Ozier cut the deficit to eight.
St. John’s would counter with a casual 18-0 run to open the lead to 26 points. The Red Storm would continue to stomp the Pioneers with their dribble drive success and unselfish play leading to wide open shots. All that was left to do was run out the clock for the win.
Out of the 38 made field goals by St. John’s, 28 of them were assisted. Nine of which came from Shamorie Ponds, who only finished with 13 points and only one turnover.
“I let the game come to me,” Ponds said about his transition from scorer to passer. “(Marvin) Clark was hot so why not feed it to him.”
Similar to last season, Sacred Heart highlighted their non-conference schedule with back to back games against Big East opponents. Although the team had negative results in both games, it builds for the bigger picture.
St. John’s was led by Marvin Clark and Mustapha Heron who each scored 23 points. They each set a career-high behind the arc as Clark knocked down six threes while Heron nailed five of his own
In the loss, Sacred Heart had four players in double figures, led by Sean Hoehn who had a team-high 16 points. Jare’l Spellman, the man in the middle for the Pioneers had 12 rebounds.
In the losing effort, the Pioneers welcomed back Ozier, who missed the last nine games due to violation of university policies.
“Koreem was a little nervous to start. It looked it. But he’s a good player and another weapon for us,” Latina said.
Sacred Heart (4-8) returns home for the first time since November 27th when they welcome UMass Lowell to Connecticut to open a three game homestand.
“We’ve been good at home,” Latina said. “We’re excited about that.
St. John’s (12-0) completes the non-conference slate of their schedule and travel to Seton Hall to open the Big East portion of their schedule. With plenty of tests still ahead in conference play, Chris Mullin knows his team is still not a finished product.
“Everything we do is geared towards progression and improving,” Mullin said. “Our overall game is in good shape. Individually, everyone can get better.”
PHOTO: Marvin Clark II/ redstormsports.com