LIU-Brooklyn ‘Smacks’ St. John’s as Ponds Misses Potential Game-Winner
NEW YORK –It was all set up for Shamorie Ponds to be the hero in his home borough of Brooklyn.
With St. John’s trailing LIU-Brooklyn by one point and the clock ticking down, Ponds got a clean look at a mid-range jumper from the left side but it hit the rim and the Blackbirds emerged with a 74-73 victory over the Red Storm at Barclays Center.
“I feel like that was a great play by Coach [Chris Mullin], I just feel like I gotta take us home on that,” said Ponds, who finished with a team-high 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting in the loss after he had tallied 51 points in his last two games combined.
“It was good coming back home but mostly I wanted to come out with a win,” Ponds added. “I felt like we were supposed to win this game.”
St. John’s, which continues to play without injured freshman point guard Marcus LoVett, is now 5-6 with their next three games against Penn State, at Syracuse and against No. 16 Butler.
“You gotta give all the credit to LIU, I thought they took it to us from the start,” Mullin said. “We got a little sloppy at the end, we didn’t take care of the ball. No one knows better than us, when you do that you get smacked and we got smacked.”
For LIU-Brooklyn (7-3), this was just their second home game of the season — and second at Barclays — after playing seven of their first nine on the road.
Former St. Anthony’s big man Jerome Frink dominated the St. John’s front line early, finishing with 20 points and 12 rebounds while battling foul trouble. And redshirt junior Nura Zanna notched a huge steal in the final seconds of a Malik Ellison pass under the basket. Zanna finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Iverson Fleming tallied a game-high 21 points, including making 3-of-5 from deep and a 2-pointer off the window that put the Blackbirds up for good. Freshman guard Jashaun Agosto added 10 points.
“I was looking forward to this game because we’ve been on the road the last couple of games,” Frink said. “I pulled the guys in and said, ‘Yo, we need this win.’ We toughed it out together and we come out with the win.”
With the recent transfer announcement of Yankuba Sima, St. John’s is a little depleted up front and Frink and Zanna took advantage to the tune of 33 points and 23 rebounds.
“Our guys know what we are,” Blackbirds coach Jack Perri said. “Jerome and Nura, they are big strong guys that are skilled. That’s’ a focus of ours every time we play a game, get the ball inside and pound it in side. Getting the ball inside is what we do.”
LIU- Brooklyn made the NCAA Tournament out of the Northeast Conference three straight years from 2011-13, and this team has the makings of a team that could go again.
“It’s a huge win,” Perri said. “It doesn’t compare to the NCAA Tournament when we won a championship there [in the NEC] but this definitely puts us in a place where we want to be. We want to get these guys to understand, it’s been a while since we’ve been to the NCAA Tournament and these guys have a chance to be special.”
Said Fleming: “It’s definitely good for us. We’re looking to do some special things this upcoming season and it helps us to show that we can play with anyone if we play hard.”
Next up is a game at Minnesota on Wednesday for which LIU-Brooklyn will get $92,000. Frink played for Gophers coach Richard Pitino at Florida International.
As for St. John’s, it won’t get any easier, with Penn State, Syracuse and Butler coming up. If the Johnnies don’t watch out, they could be 5-8 going into Big East play.
“The good ones do it on a consistent basis all the time,” Mullin said, “and we’re not on that level yet.”
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.