It’s been that kind of a year in the Big East and, for that matter, in college basketball.
Despite St. John’s being without their top players Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett, the Red Storm gave Seton Hall all they could handle on Sunday. The Pirates found a way to pull it out down the stretch and defeated St. John’s 75-70 in Newark.
Desi Rodriguez poured in 23 points including a floater with 18 seconds left to up to seal the Seton Hall victory.
“I had (Tariq) Owens on me so I cleared (my teammates) out,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to get fouled and go to the free throw line, but when I see they gave me the lane I wanted to jump stop and make a tough floater and that’s what I did.”
Ho-hum. Another double-double for Angel Delgado who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds including two offensive rebound putbacks at crucial points in the second half to keep the Pirates ahead.
Delgado often makes rebounding look easy, but even he admitted it was a little difficult tonight against a longer St. John’s lineup.
“That was crazy because every time I look back there was seven people,” Delgado said with a smile. “They are not letting me have fun in the game right now so it was kind of tough.”
Khadeen Carrington led all scorers with 24 points, 16 coming in the first half, and shot 6-13 from the field and 5-10 from downtown.
The Pirates were red hot from deep in the first half making 10 threes, which was one shy of tying the most amount of triples Seton Hall had made in a full game all year.
“They threw different defenses at us,” Rodriguez said. “We had to adjust. They were very long and getting into the passing lanes and we had to step into our shot and knock it down.”
St. John’s hung around by forcing turnovers on the defensive end and using a healthy diet of pick and roll play to stay within striking distance.
Seton Hall led by 10 at the break and by as many as 15 in the game, but St. John’s fought back in the second half and got as close as two points. However, they could never get over the hump.
“I don’t feel good about losing, but we played well,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “We’ve played bad and won and that’s not a great feeling either. Tonight was solid all the way through, but we lost.”
Tariq Owens had 19 points to pace St. John’s along with 14 rebounds and four blocks as his size made a big impact in the game.
Size was the name of the game for the Johnnies who played big against Seton Hall and it made an impact.
“I just wanted to compete,” Mullin said. “They came out, fought hard and didn’t get discouraged. That lineup we have is going to pay dividends.”
Four players finished in double figures for the Red Storm. St. John’s used 23 points off of 17 Pirates turnovers and 30 points in the paint to not only adjust without their best players, but put together a strong performance.
Mullin did get one of four total technical fouls handed out in a hotly contested game at the 3:47 mark with the Pirates leading 65-62. He would actually go and then pick up the radio mic from the nearby Red Storm radio broadcast crew to show his displeasure.
Just another sign that Big East play is back.
When two local rivals get together it is just a different kind of game. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard cited the familiarity of the players as being the spark.
“It is between the players,” Willard said. “We have played four straight local teams. They all know each other. From what I’ve heard, it’s good old fashion trash talk. They haven’t said anything disrespectful to fans, coaches or referees.”
Never change Big East.
Mullin said after the game that other Ponds and LoVett are day-to-day and when they are healthy they will play.
Willard also mentioned that Carrington, Delgado and Rodriguez had been dealing with the flu during the last few days and that freshman Myles Cale hurt his ankle at practice, which led to him playing only four minutes.
The Pirates improve to 2-0 in the conference and St. John’s falls to 0-2. To start 2018, Seton Hall heads to Hinkle Fieldhouse to try and do what Villanova couldn’t and beat Butler.
St. John’s heads to Omaha to face Creighton.
Happy New Year from the Rock and hears to more great college hoops in 2018!