St. John’s Gears Up for Carnesecca Arena Contest with Butler
QUEENS, N.Y. – After an on-campus absence lasting nearly a month, the St. John's men's basketball team will return to Carnesecca Arena for the penultimate time this season on Tuesday night, playing host to Butler at 8:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network and 970 AM WNYM. Andrew Catalon and Steve Lappas will handle the broadcasting duties on CBS Sports Network while John Minko and Brandon Tierney will call the action courtside at Carnesecca Arena on WNYM. St. John's will honor Walter Berry on Tuesday night, passing out bobbleheads of "The Truth" to all fans in attendance. In two seasons at St. John's, the 1986 National Player of the Year helped lead the Johnnies to the 1985 Final Four and set the school's all-time single season scoring record with 828 points the following year. Fans are also invited to head to the arena early and attend tomorrow's Red Storm Rally in Taffner Field House beginning at 6 p.m. The Red Storm (17-7, 5-6 BIG EAST) will look to record its third BIG EAST win in four tries when it welcomes the Bulldogs (14-10, 5-6 BIG EAST) to Queens. Entering the week, St. John's and Butler are part of a five-way tie for third place in the league standings, as Georgetown, Seton Hall and DePaul are also 5-6 through 11 conference contests. With Creighton and Providence sitting at 4-7, third and ninth in the league ledger is separated by just one game more than 60 percent of the way through the BIG EAST season. After securing a season sweep of No. 10 Marquette and handing the Golden Eagles their first ever loss at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday night, the Red Storm returned home and suffered its second straight BIG EAST defeat at Madison Square Garden, falling to Providence, 70-56, on Saturday afternoon. Playing without the services of Mustapha Heron, the team's second leading scorer, St. John's stumbled to a season-low 56 points on 37.0 percent shooting, including a 2-for-12 effort from beyond the arc. The Johnnies are hopeful that a return to campus will help snap those shooting woes, as the team has connected on 49.6 percent of its tries from the floor this season at Carnesecca Arena, including a 41.0 percent showing from three-point range. In 10 games played this season at the Red Storm's on-campus home, the squad is 9-1. Shamorie Ponds provided a bright spot for the Red Storm on Saturday at "The World's Most Famous Arena," scoring a game-high 20 points and pulling down six rebounds. The Brooklyn native has now eclipsed the 20-point mark in nine straight BIG EAST appearances dating back to the team's New Year's Day drubbing of Marquette in Queens. Ponds, who found a spot on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll for the eighth time this season on Monday, ranks third in the BIG EAST in scoring (20.8 ppg) while leading the league in assists (5.3 apg) and steals (2.8 spg). In conference play alone, the sweet-shooting lefty is averaging 23.1 points per game, good enough for second in the league behind Markus Howard (25.3 ppg). Entering Tuesday's game, Ponds is just three points away from becoming the 10th player in program history to record 1,700 career points and is 30 points shy of tying Glen Williams (1973-77) for ninth on the school's all-time scoring list. With 477 points on the campaign, Ponds is 23 points away from becoming just the third player in program history and the only one in the last 50 years to begin a St. John's career with three-consecutive seasons with at least 500 points. Bob Zawoluk (1949-52) and fellow Thomas Jefferson High School product Tony Jackson (1958-61) are the only players in program history to have accomplished the feat. When the Bulldogs come to Carnesecca Arena, the Red Storm will look to snap a two-game Butler winning streak and avenge a loss earlier this season at Hinkle Fieldhouse. In that defeat on Jan. 19, the Red Storm trailed by as many as 22 before whittling the deficit down to four in the final minute of play. The Johnnies will also seek to secure their third straight win over the Bulldogs at Carnesecca Arena dating back to 2016-17. On Dec. 29, 2016, Ponds, then a freshman, scored 19 of his 26 points in the latter stanza to help St. John's erase a 10-point second half deficit and stun No. 13/13 Butler. Last season on Feb. 28, playing without the services of Ponds, the Red Storm used 20-point efforts from Justin Simon, Marvin Clark II and Bashir Ahmed to outlast Butler in double overtime. The Johnnies trailed by five with just 12 seconds remaining in regulation before forcing extra time. The home team has emerged victorious in each of the last five outings between St. John's and Butler.