Already undermanned, St. John’s could find itself without the services of its best player Sunday when it suits up against No. 24 Seton Hall in a Big East game. Shamorie Ponds injured his right knee in Thursday’s loss to Providence and his status is uncertain for the game with the Pirates.
Ponds, a sophomore guard, does a little bit of everything for the Red Storm, including leading the team in points, assists and steals in addition to being second in rebounds. “There’s no doubt he’s one of the best players on our team, one of the best players in our league,” junior Marvin Clark II told the media of Ponds, who sat out the final nine minutes against Providence. “But everyone can bring something to the game.” Chris Mullin’s team was already without its second-leading scorer and one of its top defenders in sophomore Marcus LoVett, who missed his sixth straight game because of a strained left knee. The Pirates endured some defensive struggles by allowing 53 points in the first half to No. 23 Creighton, but righted the ship and overcame a 13-point deficit behind seniors Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington to prevail 90-83 on Thursday.
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ABOUT ST. JOHN’S (10-3, 0-1 Big East): The return of LoVett could offset the possible loss of Ponds, but if neither is available, it would put pressure on Clark, Justin Simon, Bashir Ahmed and others to carry the load. Clark had 20 points and eight rebounds against Providence and has shown he can score when given the green light to shoot, and Simon can stuff the stat sheet, but has not proven to be an explosive scorer like Ponds, who has seven games with 20 or more points this season. Ahmed is more of a complementary player given his inability to shoot for a high percentage and junior forward Tariq Owens, who has had at least four rebounds and two blocked shots in every game this season, is on the court more for defense than for offense.
ABOUT SETON HALL (12-2, 1-0): Michael Nzei may have earned himself a few more games in the starting lineup after his performance against Creighton. The junior forward from Nigeria, starting in place of Ismael Sanogo who returned from a one-game suspension but did not start, had seven points and 14 rebounds, the latter matching Delgado’s total. “We’re coming for everybody’s head right now,” Delgado, who had a team-high five assists in addition to 18 points and 14 rebounds, told the media after Pirates rallied against Creighton. “We’re not giving up. That’s how it is in this league. If you sleep, they eat you.”
1. The Red Storm ranked sixth nationally in blocks per game (6.62), No. 19 in steals per game (8.85) and 27th in field goal defense (38.8 percent) entering Saturday.
2. The Pirates have won three straight games at home and four of six overall against the Red Storm, but still face a 59-38 deficit in the series.
3. Carrington produced his eighth straight game in double figures to become the 18th player in Seton Hall history with 1,500 career points while also surpassing 500 career field goals.
PREDICTION: Seton Hall 83, St. John’s 68