Shamorie Ponds does all of his talking on the court. The quiet freshman deflected immediate praise and glory, funneling his success to his teammates for “putting him in the position to make plays.”
The 18-year-old Brooklynite exploded on Thursday, powering St. John’s to a 90-62 victory over Fordham at Carnesecca Arena. With 26 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds, the southpaw surprised his coach, in a good way.
“He doesn’t really need much space or much room,” St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin said. “He makes deep shots and contested shots.”
But the immediate impact Ponds has brought to Queens has outpaced any of Mullin’s expectation.
“His feel for the game and his change of speed and his vision for the…he pleasantly surprises me.”
Ponds’ Thursday stat line proved to be an encore of Monday’s in which he scored 25 points and had five assists in a 76-70 win over Cal-State Northridge. But in his second game without Big East scoring prowess, and fellow guard Marcus LoVett, the youngster silenced all of the doubters. Now at 5-5, the Red Storm has continued to transform into a team that must learn how to win.
“With Marcus out he’s really come through in incredible fashion,” Mullin said. “A lot of people wouldn’t feel good losing your lead guard and hand it over to a freshman, but he’s done a pretty good job.”
Defeating Fordham meant more for the Red Storm than any opponent on the schedule. The Rams stifled St. John’s last season, winning 73-57. The loss, St. John’s 22nd in the 87 meetings, didn’t fall in line with history. Getting back to a dominant pattern against the Bronx rival represented the most important theme of the night. But the Rams, who are also much improved under second-year head coach Jeff Neubauer, did not make things easy.
Fordham cut the deficit to three points with 33 seconds left in the first half. That’s when Ponds nailed a contested three-pointer from the right wing. After a defensive stop with five seconds left, Federico Mussini scored on a layup while drawing a foul. The free throw put St. John’s up 42-33 at half.
In the second half, the Johnnies ran away with it. Mussini fininshed with 20 points on 4-of-6 from downtown. Bashir Ahmed and Tariq Owens combined for 21 points on 8-of-15 from the floor. But for the seventh time in 10 games, the Johnnies knocked down double-digit three-pointers. The Red Storm rained down from distance, not only connecting on 15 threes, but 48 percent, a lethal number.
Energy and volume filled Carnesecca Arena throughout the course of the night more than it had during previous nights this season. Even Mullin stood on his feet for the majority of the game, which is a rarity for the former player. Mullin likes to sit on the bench, and has for his coaching career, but the theme has changed course since St. John’s very loud loss to Delaware State on November 29.
“I’d rather sit down,” he said. “Honestly, I would…but it seems like they stay a little more alert.”
Mullin provided energy simply by his presence. That’s true according to Mussini.
“He gives us the motivation,” Mussini said. “Today was a special game for him too, so he wanted to win pretty badly.”
For the 88th time, St. John’s and Fordham met. The Red Storm quickly erased the Rams’ win streak, cutting it down at one game. Moving forward, Ponds and company look to put themselves over .500 this Saturday at Barclays Center against LIU Brooklyn. It should be a nice homecoming for the youngster from Thomas Jefferson High School in the East New York section of Brooklyn.