It was their first showing at Madison Square Garden this season, and although the Red Storm won, even they’ll acknowledge that the room for growth is sizable.
“We have a lot of improvements to make, which is exciting to me,” said fourth-year head coach Chris Mullin, who has led the Red Storm to their first 9-0 start since 1990-91, and their third since 1986-87. “We were really good offensively, but I’m excited about the improvement that we’re going to make.
“The good thing is there are not a lot of major things, it’s really just small details that we work on every day,” he added.
The Tigers, who entered with a 4-3 record, was fourth in the Ivy League’s Preseason Poll, and challenged the Red Storm all game, which the Johnnies eventually won, 89-74.
As late as three minutes left on the clock, the Tigers trailed by only six points, before St. John’s improved to 9-0 with the help of a 9-0 run.
“Madison Square Garden is the World’s Most Famous Arena, so the fans are extra pumped, and we just feed off their energy,” said Shamorie Ponds, the team’s leader in points and assists, who had 26 points, five assists and four steals on Sunday.
“I thought we performed well in stretches,” added redshirt senior Marvin Clark II. “We’ve got a lot to improve on, but it’s nothing major. Just paying attention to minor details.”
But the Red Storm have yet to face premier competition on a consistent basis. Their signature wins of the season come against Georgia Tech, California and Virginia Commonwealth at neutral sites, the latter two at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Red Storm will have a light path in Big East play as well, where the preseason coaches’ poll slotted them at number four, and Ponds was voted Preseason Player of the Year for the conference.
“We’re working towards being more consistent,” Mullin said. “Players understand what the difference is, and that’s why you practice.”
Over the next few weeks, the Johnnies will host a collection of Northeast Conference teams in Wagner, St. Francis Brooklyn and Sacred Heart.
After this string of games, all of which will have St. John’s as heavy favorites, Big East play will tip-off on Saturday, December 29, against Seton Hall.
The expectation is to visit Newark with a perfect record to take on a Seton Hall team that just defeated ninth-ranked Kentucky squad at MSG. It will be the Red Storm’s biggest test of the season and that start of a schedule that only gets tougher.