By Laura Amato
Shamorie Ponds wasn’t out for revenge. He just wanted to win.
The St. John’s freshman wasn’t on the Red Storm roster when the squad was blown out in a lopsided loss to Fordham at Rose Hill Gymnasium last season and he wasn’t looking for some sort of on-court comeuppance Thursday night.
He simply wanted to provide a spark for the Storm and he did, leading St. John’s to a 90-62 victory over the Rams at Carnesecca Arena.
Ponds finished with a game-high 26 points, eclipsing his own career-high he set the game before.
“This is our best game so far, toughness-wise and intensity,” said Ponds, who also hauled in seven rebounds. “That was a good test. I wasn’t here last year, but I heard and I didn’t like it, so we’ve just got to have the same mentality every game.”
Ponds shouldered a good brunt of the Red Storm’s offensive responsibility as redshirt freshman Marcus LoVett was once again sidelined with an ankle injury. The point guard didn’t miss a step, sparking a St. John’s scoring effort that shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half.
“I always felt like Shamorie was the perfect guy for us,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “He performs on the big stage. His makeup’s built perfect for it.”
Fordham clawed back in the waning moments of the first half, making it a one-point game with just under three minutes left, but St. John’s responded in kind, going on an eight-point run to head into the break with a nine-point cushion.
Federico Mussini’s final-second three-point play highlighted the run and left Fordham searching for answers.
“We were so ready,” Mussini said of the showdown with Fordham. “We knew how it was last year, what happened there. So we tried to make sure everybody was ready to go out and play hard.”
St. John’s didn’t take its foot off the gas in the second half. In fact, the Red Storm seemed to settle into the gameplan as the clock ticked down and Ponds continued to help make things happen offensively.
He dished out nine assists and, as a team, St. John’s racked up 24 helpers on its 32 field goals.
“It’s not possible without my teammates,” Ponds said. “They make me feel comfortable, make me feel welcome. And without them I don’t know how we’d be doing.”
St. John’s opened up a 22-point lead with just over eight minutes left to play – on a Ponds to Tariq Owens lob – and the Red Storm never looked back.
“A lot of the credit probably goes to Shamorie Ponds,” Fordham coach Jeff Neubauer said. “We saw him play in AAU, thought he was terrific and he’s much better than that.”
By the final whistle, 10 different St. John’s players had put points on the board, including rarely-seen sophomore Elijah Holifield, who hit a three with just seconds remaining on the clock.
It wasn’t a revenge game, at least not technically, but it was a big-time win for the Storm.
“After the season we had last year, we’ve got motivation to last the rest of our lives,” Mullin said. “When you lose, no matter how it is, it should bother you. But that’s not going to win the game, it takes preparation and execution. I think they’re starting to get that.”