It’s a measure of how bad things have been in Jamaica that Thursday’s 90-62 win over the hapless Fordham Rams was seen as payback. Because the case can be made that Fordham is the worst program in the modern history of college basketball and perhaps ever. They have a record of futility that is virtually unmatched – and this is in the A 10 mind you – and have been coached by a conga line of losers that runs the gamut from appalling mediocrity Tom Pecora to giant nothing-burger Derek Whittenburg, whose most impressive basketball feat was an airball he shot in during the Reagan administration. All of which being said it was pretty pleasurable watching Mullin rub their faces in last year’s game and I taped it and later I’m going to watch it again … SJU jumped out to a 10 point first half lead and looked to be on their way to an early blow out when a combination of events – a loss of focus and the arrival on the court of the bench – let Fordham back in it, so that a made basket after Federico Mussini dribbled the ball off his foot got FU within three. Saint John’s though went on an 8-0 run to end the half and a 15-5 run to start the second (halftime adjustments baby!) and that was all she wrote … Regarding that run, one thing that this team has demonstrated early is that they can take a punch. They bounced back from a loss to Delaware State that could have been demoralizing with their best performance of the year versus Tulane. They lost an 8 point lead versus CSUN and went on to win easily without their point guard on the floor. And last night instead of rolling over when FU cut the lead to three they responded with a run of their own. It’s refreshing to see a team this young have so much poise. Because that’s something that usually takes years to learn … Even considering they were playing Fordham, SJ’s offensive output was prodigious: they shot 60 percent from the floor, 50 percent from three, were plus 20 rebounds, had 10 blocks and 24 assists on 32 made baskets. Once again the defense was atrocious – two giant Eastern European dorks hit 9 three pointers between them – but all in all there is not a lot for even a curmudgeon like me to complain about … Regarding the remarkable three point shooting, is it too soon to credit Mullin and Richmond for that? They are two of the greatest shots in the history of the game after all. Every time some dope dribbles the ball off his foot or misses a free throw a Greek chorus starts chanting that Mullin needs the aid of some
washed up loser wizened sage like Tim Welch or Pete Gillen. So do we start crediting Mullin now when every little thing goes right? He’s got four guys shooting over 40 percent from three and Mussini’s over fifty. Is that the result of being coached up and being put in a position to succeed or are we still in the “anyone who thinks Mullin knows what he’s doing is kidding himself” stage. Are any of the little things they’re starting to do right the coach’s fault? Is their resilience a reflection of his own self confidence? I guess the question I’m asking is: is it possible that Chris Mullin knows something about basketball? Maybe it’s too soon to tell, but personally I’m starting to get the warm fuzzies, or at least as fuzzy as I get anyway – I’m starting to see what they’re supposed to be doing, even if they’re not doing it yet: the spacing and ball movement, the pick and roll and back door, the emphasis on the three. They’re still a few pieces short of the puzzle, but all of a sudden they’re starting to look like a basketball team and I think I’m starting to buy in. I guess we’ll know in a couple of months
PLAYERS: Shamorie “WTF” Ponds had a night so _______ that I’m not going to diminish it by picking an adjective to describe it. It was pretty _______ though: 26 points on 9-13 from the floor, 7 of 11 from three (one off the school record set by the legendary Avery Patterson), nine assists, seven rebounds and four steals. The most ______ thing about his game is not his ________ skill set, which is _________ – it’s how calm he is, and how poised, and how the game comes to him. Demeanor-wise he’s already a senior. I can’t imagine what he’s going to be in a couple of years … Mussini had another nice game, but not nice enough for me to eschew adjectives: 20 points in 20 minutes, including a remarkable full court dash and lay in to end the first half. He even drew a charge. Five turnovers is way too many, but I’ll let that slide. For now …. Missus Fun announced last night that Tariq Owens was her favorite player. After cross-examining her to make sure this was not a case of depraved jungle fever I acquiesced. I’m wondering whether Owens moribund start and resurgence of late is the result of his shaking off the cobwebs, having not played for several years, as opposed to incompetence, which was my original theory …. Ahmed had a quiet 12 and 6. Only two turnovers though and an assist, his 13th of the year. Contrary to popular slander, Ahmed is fourth on the team in assists, averaging 1.3 per game. As opposed to say Federico Mussini, who averages less than one … Kassoum Yawke – who also averages more assists per game than Mussini – fouled out in 12 minutes. To be fair a couple of those were blocks that could have been charges and a couple were chippies. He did though finish with authority on a pick and roll early which was good to see ….
Dennis Rodman Amar Alibegovith had eight rebounds in 18 minutes, doubling his total for the year. If this is a sign that he’s realizing that his only value to the team is down low – much like Sean Evans realized in Lavin’s Year Zero – that would be a welcome change. It might even be worth putting up with him clanking threes and bouncing the ball off his feet and decapitating opposing players, which things comprise his skill set now …. Malik Ellison started. In the first two minutes he threw a lazy cross court pass that was nearly intercepted, blew a layup and let a pass go off his fingertips out of bounds, after which he was immediately pulled. Good for Mullin. Other Ellison highlights included receiving a pass in the corner with his foot out of bounds and throwing the ball away on a break. He really is one of the dumber players I can remember … Speaking of highlights, Obergruppenfuhrer Freudenberg made the number three slot on ESPN’s top 10 plays by virtue of a block late in the second half. It was a fine block , but Yawke and Owens make three similar ones a game. Maybe because he’s white, who knows. Also he made the first three of his career. Congratulations Ricky …. Darien Williams also made ESPN: his sideline antics were featured during a piece on the game – a piece in which Shamorie Ponds was barely mentioned. Perhaps if Williams spent as much time working on his game as he does choreographing his end zone dance he wouldn’t suck at basketball and so could get a few minutes actually on the court, as did walk-on Elijah Holifield, who hit a garbage time three at the buzzer …. Sima did not start and barely played and seems to be out of favor for the time being.
NOTES: Really I got nothing. We play Fordham every year and so I’ve plowed that field fallow up to and including an essay about Captain Kangaroo. Donny Marshall and Rick Ackerman are no great shakes but they’re not so awful that they’re worth ranting about and Jim Jackson and whoever the other guy is in the studio at half time, while a little too convivial for me (to be fair Calvin Coolidge was a little too convivial for me) have the virtue of not being Steve Lavin. So I got bupkis …. Apologies to those of you who wrote complaining that my last recap was not adorned by a piece of eye candy at the top. (See Rule 5.) I can understand your disappointment: this is one of the few places on the internet where you can go to see near naked women. Truth is I spent more time than I care to admit looking for a suitably risqué version of Eve Plumb, but couldn’t find anything that wouldn’t have ended up with Chris Hansen showing up at my front door. Plumb gave an Oscar worthy performance as a prostitute with a heart of gold in the underrated 1976 classic Dawn Portrait of a Teenage Runaway, but there aren’t many stills on line, which is weird because you can watch the whole thing on you tube … And finally, yesterday was Tom Waits birthday. Most of you philistines have never heard of him but he is, as the kids say, the balls: