Wednesday night, the St. John’s Red Storm (11-14, 5-7 Big East) handled a high-level Marquette Golden Eagles squad, who was a week removed from upsetting the number-one ranked Villanova Wildcats.
Three days later, the Red Storm turned around, and off their best win of the season, lost 92-79 to those same Wildcats in Philadelphia, a shortcoming which puts the Johnnies in sixth place with one month until the Big East Tournament.
Going back to their previous loss to then-number 24 Xavier on January 29, the Red Storm had a stretch of being out-rebounded in 7-of-10 Big East games.
When they took the floor against Marquette on February 1, that all changed.
At one point, the Redmen had out-rebounded the Golden Eagles 13-7 several minutes into the first half, where they blistered Marquette for 45 points.
After a quiet opening stanza, freshman guard Marcus LoVett came alive and poured on 15 of his 17 points in the second half, while also finishing the game with five assists.
The Red Storm’s 86-72 victory also saw the emergence of 2015-16 All-Big East Freshman Teamer Kassoum Yakwe, who scored a season-high 14 points while also grabbing six rebounds and blocking three shots.
“I know I (haven’t been) that good like the way I did last year but I just kept practicing,” Yawke said with a smile after the game. “You know sometime it’s going to happen. I just kept practicing and playing hard and one day I’ll get good results. Today was a perfect moment for me, I played my a** off and we got the win.”
Junior guard Bashir Ahmed paced the Johnnies with 23 points and six boards, while Brooklyn-born freshman Shamorie Ponds finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Although Tennessee transfer Tariq Owens did not score, his 11 rebounds in 21 reserve minutes were a game-high, and the redshirt sophomore was a huge reason why the Storm out-boarded Marquette, 40-39.
“We’re definitely a different team when Kassoum is on fire like how he was today, Bashir as well,” LoVett said post-game. “We’ve got have so many players that can score the ball, you can’t just look at me and Shamorie. We’ve got a lot of weapons on this team.”
“I thought it was probably our most complete game,” Red Storm head coach Chris Mullin added after the win in which his Red Storm put up a shooting line of 48.5, 41.7, and 85.7 percent.
On Saturday, February 4, the Red Storm were blitzed by the Wildcats, who were the number four-ranked team in the country prior to the match-up.
The defending national champions opened up with a hellacious 24-5 run, and at one-point led by 26 (42-16) before holding a 46-28 edge at halftime. The Red Storm showed signs of encouragement and resiliency in the second, like beginning the half with a 7-0 run.
The Wildcats eventually pulled away, leading by as much as 24 before St. John’s cut the led to nine with 48 seconds to go, subsequently suffering a 13-point defeat.
"I thought the way we finished the game was very encouraging,” Mullin said. “We got it together and made a nice run. We finished the game playing the right way, playing together.
“I always talk about playing 40 minutes and no matter what's going on around you, you compete,” he added. “When you do that every day, then you're going to win your share of games."
Prior to Tuesday, February 7, when the Big East returns to action at 7 p.m., the sixth place Red Storm are 1.5 games behind fifth-place Marquette.
After a week off, the Red Storm return to action on Saturday, February 11, where they’ll host the Seton Hall Pirates (14-8, 4-6 Big East) at MSG at noon.