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We Are New York’s Team: Students celebrate success of Men’s Basketball team after historic win

Thursday, February 8, 2018

An impromptu and celebratory gathering of students assembled outside of Carnesecca Arena in the early hours of the morning on February 8 to greet the St. John’s University Men’s Basketball team as they returned to the Queens, NY, campus following their historic 79–75 road win over top-ranked Villanova. 

The crowd of students came together after a call went out on social media from RedZone, the official student fan group, to meet and greet the team that has now defeated two, top-five ranked teams within five days. “What a game! What a night!” exclaimed Andrew M. Pappadia, a senior majoring in Sport Management in the College of Professional Studies. He leads the RedZone and serves as Student Government, Inc.’s School Spirit Committee Chair.

For the first time in 33 years, the St. John’s Men’s Basketball team has defeated the nation’s top-ranked team. The last time St. John’s defeated a number-one team, Men’s Basketball Head Coach Chris Mullin was a player; Carnesecca Arena was yet to be named after St. John’s legendary Hall of Fame Coach Lou Carnesecca ’50C, ’60GEd, ‘00HON; and the Internet and social media had yet to be created.

“I am proud of the players because they keep coming back, working, and staying positive through basketball adversity,” said Coach Mullin in a postgame interview. “We have a nice chunk of the season left, and I think that we can do some damage. Their perseverance the last two games has paid off.”

More than 100 students braved cold temperatures to gather outside as the team bus returned to campus from Philadelphia, PA. The crowd moved into Taffner Field House, where students, players, and the coaching staff basked in the team’s recent success. 

“Over 150 students left their beds at midnight on a school night to greet and cheer on their team as they got home,” said Ridge D. McKnight, a Graduate Assistant for Student Engagement in the University’s Division of Student Affairs. Ridge is expected to graduate with an M.B.A. in Executive Management from The Peter J. Tobin College of Business this year. “It was truly a special moment for our community. The team deserved it, and we as fans did as well. The St. John’s spirit echoed across New York City and the country last night. I am proud to be a part of that.” 

Despite a 1-11 record in the BIG EAST Conference, the men’s team has demonstrated throughout the season that they have the potential and determination to contend with the most elite and successful teams in the country. Eight of 11 conference losses have come by single digits, with five by seven points or fewer.

A jubilant Athletic Director, Anton Goff, thanked the crowd of students for their support and for their unwavering commitment to the program. He implored them all to come out to support the team at their next home game against Marquette University scheduled for Saturday, February 10, at noon at Carnesecca Arena. The crowd responded with the chant, “We are St. John’s!”

Shamorie Ponds, a sophomore from Brooklyn, NY, continued the outstanding play that has garnered him national attention. The lefty guard scored 26 points against Villanova after dropping 33 points against Duke and 31 against Xavier a week ago. As students chanted his name at the gathering, Shamorie rose and spoke just two words, “Go, Johnnies!”

“Last night was one of those moments that I will remember for years to come,” said Brian M. Wagner, Senior Senator, Student Government, Inc. “A celebration like this was exactly what the University community needed after a difficult month for St. John’s Basketball.”

According to ESPN, “St. John’s is the first team in the AP (Associated Press) poll era to beat a number-one team after entering the game with a 0-10 or worse record in conference play. They are also the first team in the AP poll era to win back-to-back games, both against top-five teams, immediately after a losing streak of 10 games. According to ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index, the Red Storm had a 0.3 percent chance to beat both Duke and Villanova.”

“In many ways this season, this team is a metaphor for the larger University community,” said Mark A. Andrews, Director of the Office of Alumni Relations, when he returned to campus for the late-night festivities. “Hardworking kids who stick together, never quit, and overcome obstacles to achieve success. Our alumni, our fan base, knows well the St. John’s story. The final chapter of this season is still yet to be written.”