Three Keys to Tonight: St. John's/Seton Hall

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

St. John's is red-hot and look to take down Seton Hall on the road for the first time since the late 90s.

The Pirates look to end the home woes on Thursday night, coming in at 1-4 in conference home games as they welcome St. John’s. Here are three keys to watch.

1. In the Jan. 23 match-up between the Pirates and the Red Storm, Seton Hall got off to a great start, yet found itself trailing by as many as 17 with nine minutes to go in a 77-76 loss. Both teams have had trouble playing 40 complete minutes, but St. John’s did that on Sunday in a 70-65 victory over Doug McDermott and Creighton.

While St. John’s got off to a brutal start in the Big East, they have turned it on at the right time and are playing their best basketball in the deepest part of the conference schedule. If Seton Hall cannot get more production out of Gene Teague, who was held to four points in Tuesday’s 77-66 loss to Marquette, The Hall has no shot of playing complete basketball. Look for Chris Obekpa and Teague to go back and forth down low. The Hall was beat up in the post on Tuesday, getting outrebounded 32-19. The Pirates have not been able to finish games because they have not been able to get it to their post men late in games. Sterling Gibbs can drive, but it will take Teague, Patrik Auda, and company to move off-ball to make the Pirates’ offense work for a complete game. As far as playing 40 minutes goes, I give the advantage to St. John’s after what they did Sunday.

2. Turnovers were why Seton Hall found itself in a deep hole in Queens last month. The Pirates gave the ball away 19 times. Gibbs has to know what he is doing when he goes up. When he sits down and freshman Jaren Sina takes over the point, the freshman has to keep his composure. D’Angelo Harrison and company are lethal on the run, and if the Pirates do not stay efficient, their chances at this game go down the tube.

As for the Red Storm, the Johnnies can play down to teams. While they have more talent on paper, I see this being a close game because of unforced errors. That could be a key storyline as tonight goes on.

3. Finding a balance offensively is what I see determining this one. On top of starting and finishing, which is something both teams have flaws doing, I do think the Red Storm having Harrison, Jakarr Sampson, and Orlando Sanchez each scoring 16 was huge in the January match-up.

Yes, the Pirates had four in double-figures, but how many of those guys were options for Kevin Willard to go to down the stretch? The Hall just has not had that kind of rhythm in crunch time, and until SHU gets that rhythm, the Prudential curse will continue to drive through this team.

Prediction: St. John’s will have its sloppy moments just as Marquette had on Tuesday, but in the end, the defensive ability of Sampson pays off. I see the Red Storm locking up Fuquan Edwin as best as they can. While Edwin has had ups and downs, when he has been on a high, this Pirates squad completely feeds off him. Gibbs is the initiator, but he has to get the guy who has star abilities in the scoring category to break out. The Red Storm have more than one. The Pirates need theirs to win tonight.

I don’t see The Hall being able to get it done in the final stretch of what I see being a good game that not many will see in person due to a massive snow storm.

I will take the Johnnies, who have not won on the road versus Seton Hall since the late 90’s.

St. John’s 75, Seton Hall 72

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