Sports

St. John’s has no choice but to ‘bring it’ vs. No. 10 Marquette

MILWAUKEE — Motivation can be easy to find sometimes.

It starts with a forgettable appearance on national television. It continues by getting bypassed on an awards watch list for a league rival.

For Shamorie Ponds, there will be no shortage of ammunition Tuesday night, three days after his disappointing performance in a 30-point loss at No. 2 Duke. On Monday, he was not one of the 10 finalists named for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s top point guard.

“I feel like I’m one of the most underrated players in the country,” the junior star said in a phone interview, as the Red Storm prepared to meet No. 10 Marquette.

His Golden Eagles counterpart, Markus Howard, was one of the Bob Cousy finalists, and is considered the Big East Player of the Year favorite. St. John’s (16-6, 4-5 Big East) has been one of the few teams to slow down Howard, the conference’s leader in points per game (25.0), 3-pointers made (78) and free-throw percentage (.911).

In an 89-69 St. John’s rout on New Year’s Day, Howard was held to eight points on 2-of-15 shooting. A win would be a significant boost for St. John’s NCAA Tournament résumé. It would be its fourth quadrant 1 victory, and by far coach Chris Mullin’s team’s most impressive road win.

It, of course, will be far from easy. Marquette hasn’t lost since falling to the Johnnies, reeling off eight consecutive victories. It is 14-0 at the brand new Fiserv Forum, with wins over likely tournament teams Buffalo, Wisconsin and Kansas State. Of the Golden Eagles’ four league wins at home, only one was by single digits.

“Just don’t let them get out and hit 3s,” Ponds said. “They feed off their crowd. They don’t lose at home. You got to speed them up. They like to slow the game down in the half-court. We got to keep the game at our pace and our tempo.”

In that first meeting, Ponds was the best player on the floor, notching 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists. A similar performance is needed, especially after his dud at Duke, when the Brooklyn native was held to 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting and committed five turnovers.

“Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] had a great game plan for me and I wasn’t fully prepared,” he said. “I kind of didn’t know the right reads. It was a double team or extra person coming to my open spaces.”

The week-long road trip, which began with an impressive rout of Creighton and was followed by the rout at Duke, concludes at Marquette (19-3, 8-1), and Ponds expects to see St. John’s best. The team’s mantra after a disappointing result is leave the past where it is, and channel its frustration into focus. That attitude is needed again.

“We got to bring it or we’re going to get beat down,” Ponds said. “We got no choice but to bring it.”

It will start with him. It so often does for St. John’s.

This post was originally posted at https://nypost.com/2019/02/05/st-johns-has-no-choice-but-to-bring-it-vs-no-10-marquette/. WGEH does not own this content and is not responsible for it.