Quote Center: St. John's Postgame vs. DePaul
Big East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament
Thursday, March 14, 2019
St. John's Red Storm
St. John's - 82, DePaul - 74
THE MODERATOR: Shamorie Ponds, Justin Simon, and Coach Chris Mullin.
Q. Coach, can you speak to Justin Simon's energy in that first half when you guys really needed a strong presence when the game was close?
CHRIS MULLIN: Obviously, being named Defensive Player of the Year yesterday, we rely on him tremendously to set the tone. I thought tonight he did that. And as important as that was having his teammates behind him. Shamorie did a great job. We had a little bit different game plan. He executed to perfection. There was a total team effort. But these two guys here set the tone for everything we do. Like most teams, the guards set the table, offensively and defensively. Tonight they led the way.
Q. You did a great job shutting down Max Strus, he lit you guys up for 43 points in the last game. What was your strategy? Anybody can answer. Coach?
CHRIS MULLIN: From my standpoint, it was to get Justin in the game. I just told him last game he had seven at halftime. Justin picked up a few fouls. When he came out, the guy got going. He's that type player, it only takes a little bit for him to catch fire, and that's what happened.
I just thought again tonight Justin was instrumental in setting the tone, and then Shamorie and the rest of our team did a good job. When he did catch, he was looking at two, three, four bodies.
Q. Justin, a very, very important game for your program. Can you sort of speak to how you feel about savor an assignment, like trying to turn that guy's water off?
JUSTIN SIMON: Say that again?
Q. How much you savor the assignment to turn Strus' water off.
JUSTIN SIMON: Like Coach said, it's a team effort. Strus is a great player. He can get hot. Just like our guys, they were extending the floor, I was running off the line just trying to make him uncomfortable. I thought it was a great team effort out there, and we played hard.
Q. Shamorie, third time here at the tournament. This is so different from last year you've been to, I guess. How much have you been looking forward to having a chance to play a game this meaningful this time of year?
SHAMORIE PONDS: Definitely important for us. I felt like with this group we could do something special. We are definitely, definitely looking forward to each and every game. We packed for four days, so we're looking forward to it.
Q. Chris, when you look at Shamorie's development this season in particular, what strides have you seen in his game, and what other strides could he make in his development to improve going forward?
CHRIS MULLIN: First and foremost, you're looking at one of the most, for three years as a St. John's player, maybe the best across the board. Each and every year, he's gotten much better. He's got a lot of God-given instincts and ability, but he works hard at his game. I think his defense has improved. I know for sure his playmaking and his ability to affect the game not just by scoring. I was always told good players do for themselves and great ones do for others. He's making players around him better, which is a compliment to him and his teammates are feeding off of him.
Q. For Shamorie, when you're having such a great night shooting from the floor, how do you keep it in your mind also distributing to your teammates and get seven assists and manage to see the floor like you did tonight?
SHAMORIE PONDS: I mean, well, my teammates, they give me great confidence. I feel like, with them guys backing me up, there's like no pressure on me. Them guys, they come on and play hard every night.
Q. Chris, how could you after three losses, just wipe it clean and come out here tonight like at any point this season when they were playing well?
CHRIS MULLIN: I felt good about that. We actually have done that. Look at some of our losses, we didn't play 40 minutes of bad basketball. It was stretches that things happen in different times of those games that affected that particular game. So I think we've done a good job.
I always preach to these guys, and I know it sounds kind of silly, but just our daily habits. That's what it's all about. Makes more sense, some are 55 and 21, but they've done a good job of that. These guys have been with me three years, they've done a really good job of not only mentally but physically taking care of their daily schedule.
That's what I always tell them, you can only take care of what's in front of you. They get that text every day of their daily schedule. Stick to that, and we'll come back tomorrow and do it again.
So, yeah, we made some adjustments, but to me just having the season end and coming to the Big East Tournament, my biggest message to them is to come back mentally and physically fresh. It's a new season. That should reenergize us. I thought they did a good job tonight on doing that.
Q. Chris, could you speak to Justin's defensive performance today. Obviously, he's the Defensive Player of the Year in the conference. So he's had a bunch of good ones. Would you say that this rates among his better ones?
CHRIS MULLIN: He's had some great ones. He really has. This is right up there because, as you play against guys two and three times, it gets tougher. You know, it gets tougher on both sides, offensively and defensively. But to maintain that type of mental focus, physical exertion, that's why he's the Defensive Player of the Year. I was telling you guys that a little bit here and there, how good he had been playing.
I think it shows up when you play against a guy like Strus and Markus Howard and things like that, but he's done stuff, you know, in games where maybe he didn't shine as much. But he's a typical lockdown defender. When you think of a long athletic guy that can run guys off screens, take away the catch and shoot, play guys off the dribble, play guys in the post. So, I mean, it's a well-deserved reward, and we rely on him a lot.
Q. Shamorie, coming back tomorrow night for Marquette, what does it do for you having beat these guys twice already this season?
SHAMORIE PONDS: I mean, it definitely shows that we can beat them. We've just got to have the same game plan that we beat them guys at their home and our home. So looking forward to the game.
Q. Chris, when you spurred away a little bit in the second half, it seemed like maybe Shamorie was becoming a little more assertive offensively. I'm not sure if it was a plan or just something that happened in the middle of the game. Did you notice that Shamorie was helping you lead the second half?
CHRIS MULLIN: Yeah, I think that had a huge impact, and that's usually our game plan. I also thought the second half we did a little bit better job on the open floor. We got some stops and got some run-outs. We got a few 50-50 balls and turned them into baskets. I felt that was going to be the key, where at halftime before, I thought we should have been up a little bit more. There's a few offensive rebounds we didn't get and a few loose balls that just kept them going their way. So I just thought we did a better job in the hustle areas and capitalizing in the open floor.
Q. Same question, you've outscored Markus Howard 54-25, same as the team. How tough is that third time beating great players? Is that an extra challenge or more confidence?
SHAMORIE PONDS: It's definitely an extra challenge, but I feel like it's more confidence. I feel like those guys are going to bring their all, so I feel like we can't lay down.