Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett dazzled as the Johnnies finagled a 77-61 win over the Binghamton Bearcats for their second victory of the season.
It represented the first coming out party for the highly-touted freshman, Ponds. During the exhibition and season-opener, his skills and swagger with the ball showed in pieces, like the trailer to a movie. Tuesday night, the stars finally aligned for the 18-year-old Ponds who turned up the heat on Binghamton. In 30 minutes, the Brooklyn native scored 21 points, snagged a team-high 10 rebounds, and handed out four assists.
“He’s ahead of what I thought he would be,” head coach Chris Mullin said. “[It’s] probably more-so IQ-wise on the court, picking things up, being able to figure out, if I throw different lineups out, where he can be effective.”
There were some questions regarding Ponds’ versatility outside of scoring the basketball. Ponds’ scoring ability shined, proving the reason for his recruitment, but any questions about his all-around game are starting to be answered.
“When you watch the kid in high school he’s a primary scorer,” Mullin said. “But his passing and his defensive instincts are really good, and he picks things up quick…When you have a young kid and you throw a whole new system at him, he’s been quick to pick that up.”
LoVett, who earned the start after scoring 19 in a win over Bethune-Cookman, dropped 23 points to lead St. John’s. The red-shirt freshman hit five of seven three-pointers, helping the Red Storm shoot 42 percent from three-point range.
The two guards, working as tremendous point guards and shooting guards simultaneously, combined for eight of St. John’s 16 assists.
“[Shamorie] can bring up the ball just like I can,” LoVett said. “He can handle pressure just like I can handle pressure…as long as the ball is taken care of that’s all that matters.”
Through two games and two victories, LoVett’s one year of collegiate experience, despite the fact that he sat out last season, show in his poise at the point. His ability to pass the ball and create off the dribble opened options in the Red Storm’s season-opening win over Bethune-Cookman. In that game, inside players like Tariq Owens and Bashir Ahmed thrived because of LoVett’s seven assists.
Ponds plays with a cocky but confident attitude, knocking down shots with his mouthpiece dangling halfway out of his mouth. In first two public appearances, Ponds showed toughness on defense, picking off the opposition en route to six steals. Shots had not begun to fall, but the craftiness and coolness are intangibles for the youngster from Brooklyn.
“I wouldn’t say [things haven’t been easier],” Ponds said. “I would just say I’m confident in myself and what I can do.”
The Red Storm led by seven at the end of the first half and used a tremendous shooting second half to break down the Bearcats. But Friday marks the beginning of at the true test to this season’s changed crew for the Johnnies. A road game at the Big Ten Conference’s Minnesota feeds into St. John’s Thanksgiving tournament appearance in the Battle 4 Atlantis, meaning a date with Michigan State.
“With our coaching staff and what they teach us, as long as we listen to their principles and their game plan on how we’re going to face our opponents, we’ll be fine,” LoVett said.