St. John’s will have one night off before taking the floor once again as it hosts Nebraska on Thursday as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. The Red Storm improved to 2-0 with an easy 80-55 victory over Central Connecticut on Tuesday, while the Cornhuskers head on the road for the first time following Monday’s 86-67 rout of North Texas.
“It’s going to be a physical matchup,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin told reporters at a press conference. “I told our players ... this is going to be the biggest and strongest team that we’ve played so far. They are going to bring their physicality ... that’s always been the case with the Big Ten Conference. We have to meet that with force, and then get back and play our game.” The Red Storm game includes lots of all-around strong play from sophomore guards Shamorie Ponds (21 points) and Marcus LoVett (15 points) and a ton of turnovers as St. John’s forced 21 for the second straight game, turning those miscues into 31 points. Nebraska comes off a much-needed easy win after struggling to get things going in the opener and barely getting past Eastern Illinois 72-68 — the Huskers shot just 38 percent from the field and were just 23-of-39 from the line — but the Cornhuskers took no chances in the victory over North Texas and roared out to a 52-point first half, the third time they scored 50 before halftime under sixth-year coach Tim Miles. “ I thought that we’ve learned from our previous start where we didn’t share the ball and didn’t guard the ball,” Miles told reporters after the win over North Texas. “We had two goals tonight; pass the ball, guard the ball. I thought we did that well for a long time. We jumped way out on them.”
TV: 6:30 p.m. ET, FS1.
ABOUT NEBRASKA (2-0): James Palmer Jr., sparked the team’s game-opening 25-2 run against North Texas with 11 of his game-high 18 points and he also finished with five rebounds. Fellow guards Glynn Watson Jr. (15 points, four rebounds) and Evan Taylor (12 points, the majority from the free-throw line where he was 10-for-12) also chipped in. Forward Isaac Copeland posted a team-high eight of the squad’s 45 rebounds and blocked a career-best four shots, as Nebraska totaled nine blocks overall, matching its highest total under Miles.
ABOUT ST. JOHN’S (2-0): The Johnnies were outrebounded by New Orleans in the opener but they took greater control of the boards against Central Connecticut (38-29), with guard Justin Simon continuing to make his presence felt after transferring from Arizona with his first career double-double, setting career highs with a team-best 11 rebounds and 12 points. Ponds also came up big on the glass with nine rebounds to go with his 21 points, with junior forward Tariq Owens again coming off the bench to provide needed muscle with five rebounds. “We have to do it as a group,” Mullin said. “Who gets them (rebounds) is not that important, but we have to go get them. ... I’ve asked them (Ponds and Simon) to get into the paint. If their guy is not underneath the basket, get in the paint and help our bigs get the basketball. They are doing a good job, but it’s going to be a huge test on Thursday.”
1. This will be the first meeting between the Cornhuskers and Red Storm.
2. St. John’s has won six of its last seven games at Carnesecca Arena dating back to last season.
3. Nebraska went to the foul line 45 times (33 made) against North Texas, the most since it had 48 free throws against Penn State on Feb. 20, 2014.
PREDICTION: St. John’s 82, Nebraska 75