Shamorie Ponds watched as the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds stormed down the floor, greeting their bench in utter jubilation. Ponds fell to his knees as his potential game-winning, elbow jumper clanked off the back-iron of the rim. St. John’s lost a heartbreaker at the buzzer, falling 74-73 to the Northeast Conference’s LIU-Brooklyn. But the one-point loss felt more like a 100-point loss for the Red Storm who opened the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival as a 14-point favorite.
“We got smacked,” St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin said. “Give all of the credit to LIU, they took it to us from the start.”
The Red Storm had their fair share of flubs in the final moments, allowing a late four-point lead slip away. Ahead 73-69, the Johnnies yielded a three-point basket by LIU-Brooklyn’s Iverson Fleming and his ridiculous Marcus Paige-esque two-pointer off the window.
Despite the 14-point favorite entering the game, St. John’s did not enter Sunday’s game with a puff-our-chest attitude. But having won three-straight games, including wins over Fordham, Cal State-Northridge, and Tulane, the Red Storm entered with a bit of a careless, free-flowing mentality.
“We didn’t have the energy level that we had in the past couple of games,” Ponds said. “I feel like we came out too nonchalant and flat.”
The Johnnies couldn’t hold much of the Blackbirds offense in check. Senior forward Jerome Frink had 20 points and 12 assists, while the Blackbirds as a whole shot 45 percent from the floor and 50 percent from deep. Fleming, who buried the final five points in the comeback victory, finished with 21.
St. John’s couldn’t hold a seven-point lead in the early portion of the second half, when Federico Mussini’s three-pointer gave the Johnnies a 58-51 lead with 13:27 left. The Red Storm looked strong enough following a 42-42 tie into the halftime break. Still without high-scoring point guard Marcus LoVett, who missed his third consecutive game due to a sprained ankle, and big man Yankuba Sima, who has informed the program that he will transfer, several players delivered impressive performances.
Darien Williams’ impact off the bench turned quite a few heads. The 6-foot-8 forward, known for his class-clown antics, showed that he was more than just a “good teammate.” Williams scored 15 points in 20 minutes, pouring in 12 of them in the first half.
“I thought Darien was phenomenal,” Mullin said. “If we didn’t have him in that first half we would have been down 20.”
Knowing what St. John’s know about energy equaling performance, Mullin tried his hand at a halftime speech that involved the energy displayed by Williams, who had scored just two points all season.
“I asked everyone to match his intensity and his energy and efficiency. We couldn’t do that.”
The Red Storm snapped its three-game losing streak, falling to 5-6. The stages don’t get any easier for St. John’s, either. With a much-needed week off to rest and heal Marcus LoVett, the Johnnies meet Penn State in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 18 and then head to Syracuse on the 21st for a date with Syracuse. Last season’s win over Syracuse proved to be the only victory that Mullin can lift his chin about. Visiting Jim Boeheim’s Orange one year removed from its NCAA Final Four trip mean that the Johnnies will play not softball opponents much longer. Losses to teams like Delaware State and LIU-Brooklyn just mean one thing: St. John’s is not winning the games St. John’s is supposed to win.
Ponds echoed that sentiment abruptly and with a bit of fervor.
“…I wanted to come out with a win,” he said. “I feel like we’re supposed to win this game.”
For St. John’s that time has not come quite yet.