NEW YORK — Vying for their first three-game win streak since December, Seton Hall came up short and looked inferior to St. John’s in many aspects in a disappointing 78-70 loss laced with NCAA implications.
Seton Hall (15-9, 5-7) started decently but missed a few high-percentage chances on the offensive end and then buckled under the high defensive intensity that St. John’s brought for a large portion of the game.
Kevin Willard labelled St. John’s center Tariq Owens a “real difference-maker” post-game after he registered four blocks and a double-double in just his second start in 2017; Owens set the tone for a really strong defensive effort from St. John’s.
Seton Hall coughed the ball up down the stretch of the first half, wasn’t able to get key defensive stops in crunch time during the second period, and never really looked like threatening St. John’s double-digit advantage even though the Red Storm eased off the pedal a bit just prior to the final media break.
All that and more below…
Seton Hall lost the points off turnovers battle 30-5. Need I say more; can I stop writing now? The Pirates turned it over 6 times over the final five minutes of the first half and lost that battle 18-8 overall with just 10 assists; St. John’s went on a 16-6 run over that five-minute span. This is clearly the stat of the game for me.
As I predicted before the first meeting, Seton Hall lost the guard battle today. At least once, Khadeen Carrington (14 pts, 5-16 FG) was noticeably favoring the left hand that had two dislocated fingers against Butler a few weeks back en route to a lackluster showing from Seton Hall’s star guard after it looked like he had turned a corner against Georgetown and Providence; Carrington said his hand was fine post-game. Madison Jones (2 pts, 1 ast, 3 TOs) started aggressively but was repeatedly turned away in the paint while Myles Powell (13 pts) had a strong second half but his outburst looked to have come too late to really matter.
St. John’s interior was their weak link coming into this game, but a neutral would have no idea. Hats off to Chris Mullin for finally plugging Tariq Owens into his starting five beginning with Villanova last week, but the move clearly paid dividends today as well. Kevin Willard noted how two shot-blockers on the floor at once impacted the game; St. John’s was the 8th-best shot blocking team coming into the game.
Seton Hall couldn’t get a stop when it mattered. St. John’s scored on 7 of 8 possessions during the middle portion of the second half to build a 65-49 lead then they scored points on 4 of 5 possessions just after the final media timeout to stave off any outside chance the Pirates had of making a comeback. Both schools had 36 points in the paint while Seton Hall’s thin depth showed in a 32-13 bench points disadvantage; Marcus LoVett scored 19 off the pine.
This one obviously hurts Seton Hall’s tournament chances, but it hasn’t sunk the ship. The Pirates dropped about 8 RPI spots from 36th to 44th following the loss against a sub-100 opponent, though St. John’s looks poised to continue to rise at this current trajectory. The optics are bad, but the Hall has four resume-building games left in Creighton, Villanova, and Xavier at home plus Butler on the road in their regular season finale; they definitely cannot afford to lose to either of DePaul and Georgetown.
Kevin Willard on where things went wrong: “We were up 24-23 with 3:50 to go in the first half and we had 5 turnovers in a row, that let them get on a good run and go up 10 at the half. We had some good opportunities but I thought the kid [Tariq] Owens played great on the inside, he was a difference-maker. We had our chances, but you gotta give them credit.”
When asked about fatigue, turnaround: “We just talked about that in the locker room. Going into this, these two games, I thought — Providence and St. John’s — we’re going to be the two toughest ones just because both teams were coming off bye weeks … I knew it was going to be a quick turnaround but I don’t think we were tired but I don’t think I prepared them as well as I could have on the 1-day [turnaround]. We still have a great opportunity in front of us, we have three home games against three great teams.”
More on the same topic, though Willard was specifically asked about it: “I think today, were they more fatigued than they were Wednesday? Yeah, I think that’s just natural. We took a good day off Thursday but you have to do a little work Friday and then you play an early game. I don’t think it’s physical maybe just a little bit mental … It’s tough playing two overtime games and two teams coming off bye weeks. You don’t have as much time and they do and coming off a bye-week they’re fresh. I have a lot of confidence in these guys going forward, I loved the effort they played with and the battle they played with. We just have to take the opportunities in front of us.”
Willard on the difference in St. John’s frontcourt compared to the first game, and if missing Ismael Sanogo had an impact: “Now you have two good shot-blockers down there where last game they had one … I thought them playing big was a little bit of a difference and us not having Ish [Sanogo] is a difference because now when we take Mike [Nzei] out, we have a hard time running — we don’t have a whole lot of stuff with Desi [Rodriguez] at the four and I think that played into it a little bit.”
On if his team needs to go 3-0 over the next three games: “You can’t think about if you have to win all three of them. You don’t know. You don’t. The goal is to win all three of them, yeah. But I mean, we’re going to start with Creighton .. That’s what these guys have done a good job of this year. Every time we have had a tough challenge or tough slate on the schedule, they’ve bounced back great. That’s why I’m so proud of them and why I have so much confidence in them. We haven’t had an easy slate and every time I’ve asked them to regroup and come back they have and have done it with a great attitude.”
Khadeen Carrington on playing in the Garden: “In March when we come in here, I’m going to forget about this already.”