The Red Storm (13-13, 2-11 Big East) did just that on February 7, recording their first Big East win of the season in 12 attempts with a 79-75 victory over the Villanova Wildcats in Philadelphia.
The team then followed it up with a win over Marquette at Carnesecca Arena, where Shamorie Ponds scored 44 points, the most in the Queens arena’s history.
“It felt good to see the ball go in, trying to mix it up,” said Ponds after the 86-78 win over Marquette. “My teammates believed and trusted me and fed off of me. All the great players who came through this university, for my name to be up there, it is a dream come true.”
To the surprise of no one from East New York, the Thomas Jefferson High School alum has come into his own as a sophomore at the university, becoming one of the Big East’s most noted and talented players.
Head coach Chris Mullin has taken notice, calling the 44-point barrage, which came on 16-of-23 shooting including 4-of-7 made from three, “historic and legendary” after the third of three straight Red Storm victories to start the month of February.
“He broke the building record, so that speaks for itself,” said Mullin. “Just an incredible performance. It looks like he’s got more pop and more energy, I was glad to see that.”
The Red Storm lost 11 straight games to start Big East play, eight of which were by single digits, a period Mullin described as “six weeks that felt like six years.”
“Of course it feels good to be on the other side, but like I said the process of hanging in there and maintaining work ethic and positive attitude might be more gratifying than winning,” he said. “We know what could happen during a streak like that, so that’s a testament to the players.
“We are all going to go through adversity, but how you handle it is as important as or more important than actually what happens,” Mullin added. “For our players, it’s a good life lesson that they hung in there and have started to get rewarded. They didn’t give up and if you give up you have no chance.”
Perhaps it’s too soon to look ahead, but why not?
The Red Storm have five regular season games left before the Big East Tournament begins on March 7. Though they are currently last in the conference, of their remaining contests none are in the Big East’s top three at the moment, with Providence (7-5), Butler (7-6) and Seton Hall (6-6) leading the way.
A season that began with high expectations, including thoughts of the NCAA Tournament, could still potentially be validated, but the Red Storm will have to go on a furious run to end the season and carry it deep into the Big East Tournament, if not just win the conference bracket outright.
The chances are slim, but a team that’s already beaten Duke and Villanova back-to-back has already cashed in after dreaming big before.
One thing is for sure, St. John’s fans everywhere are saying thankful January is over.
St. John’s was due back in action on February 14 with a road trip to face DePaul (10-14). Tipoff is at 9 p.m.