St. John’s had almost a week off to recharge after its trip to Orlando for The AdvoCare Invitational, where the Johnnies went 2-1 after Sunday’s 46-43 victory over Central Florida. The Red Storm return to the floor Saturday to host a Sacred Heart team looking to wrap up a stretch of three consecutive road games with its second victory.
The Red Storm expected to come back strong from its seesaw 90-82 loss to Missouri in The AdvoCare Invitational semifinals Friday but struggled offensively against UCF two days later, the first time since a 48-44 triumph over Niagara in December 2015 that St. John’s won despite scoring fewer than 50 points. But the Johnnies didn’t need to be at their offensive best as their defense stepped up by allowing the lowest point total to a Division I opponent since a 59-42 victory over St. Francis (N.Y.) on Dec. 5, 2006. It helped that the Red Storm created havoc with a school record-tying 15 blocks, a mark that had been reached only three times in St. John’s history, with the last occurring in 2013. “From our standpoint, to hang in there and get the win was the only thing we really concerned ourselves with,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin told reporters. “It was probably as ugly of a game as you are going to see on both sides, but someone had to win. I‘m glad it was us.”
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ABOUT SACRED HEART (2-4): The Pioneers hit 62 percent of their second-half shots to turn a 39-35 deficit at the break into an 87-80 victory over UMass Lowell on Wednesday, giving Sacred Heart its third win in the last four games. Joseph Lopez played 28 minutes and led Sacred Heart with 20 points and 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the season, while Mario Matasovic and Sean Hoehn each came through with 18 points and five rebounds. The Pioneers closed out Wednesday’s games leading the Northeast Conference in rebounding offense (45 per game) and defense (32 per game).
ABOUT ST. JOHN‘S (6-1): Not only did the Johnnies tie the school record for blocks, but they smashed the single-game AdvoCare Invitational record of 10, with forward Tariq Owens leading the charge with five followed by Justin Simon with a career-best four. Leading scorer Shamorie Ponds entered the UCF game averaging 21.0 points per contest after scoring 31 in the loss to Missouri, but was completely off and hit only 1-of-11 shots from the field and had six points overall, although he tied a career high with 10 rebounds to go along with four assists and three steals. Marcus LoVett (game-high 12 points) and Marvin Clark II (11) were the only players to finish in double figures as the Red Storm won despite shooting 27.1 percent from the floor.
1. The Red Storm have forced at least 20 turnovers in five of seven games this season.
2. St. John’s came out on the short end of the points in the paint (26-14) and points off turnovers (16-11) against UCF.
3. The Red Storm held UCF to 1-for-13 shooting from the 3-point arc.
PREDICTION: St. John’s 92, Sacred Heart 65