Simon Flirts with Triple Double in 10th W at Mohegan Sun

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

Uncasville, CT--A trip north on the Connecticut Turnpike turned into the Red Storm's 10th win on the short season for St. John's over the 5-6 Saint Joseph's Hawks of Philadelphia. 

Just three points away from a career high in points scored in a single contest, Brooklyn sophomore Shamorie Ponds led the way, as he netted 28 points shooting 9-of-15 from the field. He wasn't the only one to play up to a marquee level versus the Atlantic 10 storied school. Arizona transfer Justin Simon flirted with a triple double, where he registered a jaw dropping stat line of 11 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists on the night. Simon, would have been the first Red Storm player to accomplish the feat since Ron Artest back in January of 1999 vs. Seton Hall. "I was aware. One of our graduate assistants told me at halftime, but I just play to win."

A team who ranks in the top five in the NCAA in blocks per game with 6.7, had eight on the evening with five coming from junior forward Tariq Owens. Shamorie Ponds, Justin Simon, and Kassoum Yakwe all added one to the total to equal the swat party before Christmas. Owens, is now averaging 4.3 blocks per game over the last six games played, and has slid into the starting lineup perfectly.

Chris Mullin told the media after the game, "I'm proud of them. They played really great defense these first 12 games, which shows you the commitment to each other. I think we have a long way to go too. We have a lot of improvements that we can make, so I think we've put ourselves in a great position."

The Hawks of Saint Joseph's entered the contest allowing 8.7 turnovers per game to the opposition, which is the second best in the entire nation. The Red Storm came into the game forcing roughly 19.4 turnovers per contest, and did just that tonight vs. Phil Martelli's Hawks.

In the opening half, the Johnnies fell behind by a game high six points, which has been a common theme throughout the season so far, in which they start the game very poorly, and having to play catch-up, and in the second half, finding their rhythm and dominating teams down low, and from the perimeter as well. Today, was exactly that from every player in the team's rotation. "I think we've shown our most improvement on the defensive end, and that's been consistent. Tonight was one of our better offensive games, but we still aren't entirely in our rhythm." Mullin told the New York Post.

He has that right, as the rhythm in the beginning of the game has been porous as of late. But the team fought through a lot of loopholes without the defensive leader in Marcus LoVett, who has missed the previous four contests since his sprained MCL injury vs. UCF in Orlando during Thanksgiving weekend. Shamorie Ponds spoke about the absence of his partner in crime, "I dominate the ball a lot now that he's out. He was our most-dominant ball handler. I just shifted over to the point guard position."

In the second half of the contest, the two schools battled as they went back and forth for possession. Senior guard Shavar Newkirk tied the game at 68 with five minutes to go in regulation. But the Red Storm weren't out of the game, and bolstered down on defense. The Johnnies led by Justin Simon shut down the Hawks for the final 3:39 minutes that led his team to a 73-68 victory, with Shamorie Ponds netting four free throws to seal the deal. "That was key for us. Coach [Chris Mullin] preaches that every game to us. Our defense turns into offense. That's what we do, and we won it down the stretch"

Next up for the 10-2 Red Storm after the seven day Christmas break are the Providence Friars, who make their way to Carnesecca Arena next Thursday 12/28. The game can be seen on FS1, and can be heard on WSJU St. John's University Radio Network.

Joseph Jarzynka