Defense for Johnnies Sends them to Sixth Win vs. UCF

(Photo taken by St. John's University Athletics)

Orlando, FL--A defensive performance that was predicted yesterday in the preview of this match-up. It did in fact work that way, with a mini asterick, as the St. John's Red Storm (6-1) defeated the University of Central Florida Knights (4-2) in a nail-biter 46-43.

The Johnnies leave Orlando with a pair of victories, over the aforementioned UCF Knights, and the Oregon State Beavers.

A defensive showdown was on display today as 15 blocks were put to the paper for the Johnnies, as junior Tariq Owens had five of his own blocks. Double digit blocks, most notably 15, has only been achieved three times in the schools history, most recently came against Longwood University on November 26, 2013, roughly four years to date. The offense for the Red Storm wasn't at full potential, as fatigue may have set in for some of the players, where Shamorie Ponds only scored six total points in the entire game. Rewind to the quote where head coach Chris Mullin said he needs more consistency from his leading scorer.

Chris Mullin spoke to the media after the game. "The most important thing is that we won, and that's all we kept talking about. I kept telling them about playing great defense, rebounding the ball well, and I thought early on we had half-court rhythm."

The Johnnies faced 7'6" Tacko Fall, who was just a mini issue for the 6'11" Tariq Owens. "We played three pretty big teams consecutively here, but obviously Fall was just so much bigger than everyone. Fall can catch everything at the rim, it was simply a different dynamic, on defense as well."

The Red Storm started off the third place consolation game with a 10-0 run, and was easily the best start for this team during this 2017-18 season. Then the Johnnies fell back a bit, and allowed UCF to score six unanswered points to narrow the lead to four. Within the final minutes of the first half, St. John's went ice cold offensively, as they only made five of their 24 shots from the field, where UCF then took full advantage, and ended the half with a 7-0 run to put the Johnnies down by one 23-22.

With Shamorie Ponds being held without a point, he vowed that his teammates would back him up, and they sure did. "I'm pretty confident in my team, and feel like anyone can lead the way at any time when it comes to scoring. It doesn't matter who scores the most at halftime or at the end of the game because we are going to fill up the stat sheet."

During this game, the Knights of UCF shot one of 13 from beyond the arc. And shot an abysmal 26.4% from the field. The Johnnies were no better, as they shot only 27.1% from the field. Not good. UCF put on a fight at the end of the game, where they pulled within one after the teams only three-pointer from Dayon Griffin.

Chris Mullin spoke about what he looks to build upon back home starting next Saturday, "I think we talked about how our defense improved. Tonight we played good, solid defense, not perfect, but good. We stuck to our game plan, I thought we had good energy, and when you maintain that you can find ways to win. Usually your defense picks up when you are making shots off it, but we got nothing today to help our defense."

The Johnnies head home to New York, as they get set to take on Sacred Heart next Saturday December 2nd, at Carnesecca Arena at 4:30pm on FS1

Joseph Jarzynka