basketball Edit

St. John's cough up 3rd straight loss

Sophmore center Yankuba Sima grabbed seven boards against VCU
Sophmore center Yankuba Sima grabbed seven boards against VCU (SJU Athletics)

Amid a competitive tournament field like the Battle 4 Atlantis fatigue from suiting up for games on back-to-back days are real. Dead legs, flat shots, and lack of hustle are noticeable signs to look for early in games - especially for a young team.

On Thursday, those signs were nowhere in sight for St. John’s as it came out lively and energetic against Virginia Commonwealth just 24 hours following a loss in a winnable game vs. No. 24 Michigan State. Coming out the gate quickly, the first eight St. John’s shot attempts fell through the net but that good fortunate quickly ran out.

In the latter 20 minutes of the game however, only eight of 29 shot attempts registered for the Johnnies and another second-half disappearance by the offense delivered the team’s third straight loss, a 75-69 decision against VCU on day two of the early season tournament.

"Looking at the total game, I think we had a few careless turnovers that cost us," said SJU Head Coach Chris Mullin. "We missed a few easy baskets and they turned them into 3-point shots in transition. But I thought we played a good game, just didn't finish it off. We probably played 25 to 30 good minutes last game and probably about 30 tonight. We just have to get to 40 minutes. We're getting there. We're getting better."

Shamorie Ponds shook off a rough shooting night on Wednesday and bounced back with 18 points — including 12 in the first half on 3 of 4 from 3-PT range. Bashir Ahmed (13), Yankuba Sima (12) and Marcus LoVett (10) were the other double-digit scorers for the Red Storm.

The Johnnies built a quick lead, jumping ahead 18-5 in the first five minutes of the game with a strong start from Ahmed, who converted a four-point play after getting fouled behind the line, and Sima, who looks to be putting his post moves together more confidently. But Ahmed picked up a second foul shortly after that lead and VCU made a run, eventually cutting it to a one-possession game heading into the half.

St. John’s shot 20 percent from 3 and missed six free throws in the second half in a six-point loss in which both teams shot around 41 percent overall.

"We played two really good teams,” Mullin said. “We competed with them, played hard and we're right there. We're not really into moral victories but we do see improvement in a lot of areas.

“We basically played our fifth game together. Some of that takes time. We just got to keep working at it and break through it. I thought we played well enough to win but we have to give VCU a lot of credit, they're a veteran group. We are getting closer and [we have] to stay the course."

St. John's will conclude the three games in three nights stretch with the loser of the LSU-Old Dominion game on Friday at 9:30 p.m.

Yankuba Sima has struggled with foul trouble frequently, leaving a void for Mullin to fill when he sends his starting center to the bench for extended stretches, especially early in the game. Against a physical VCU squad, Sima managed to stay on the court for 30 minutes and provided a solid outing with 12 points (4 of 8) while snaring seven boards.