NEW YORK — Myles Powell’s 2,000-point game showcased a memorable performance from the Naismith hopeful as No. 18 Seton Hall put on a second half show to douse St. John’s 82-79 and extend their win streak to eight.
The way things are looking, Seton Hall’s (14-4, 6-0) current trajectory won’t just see them playing games at Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament, but as a Sweet 16 team in the East Regional.
In a game in which they slept through the first 20 minutes to the tune of 15 turnovers and a 43-30 deficit, Seton Hall dug deep for the second game in a row to rally and keep their streak alive.
Winning a game after truly only playing for half of it is what separates second weekend teams from the rest of the pack and bodes well for a team not firing on all cylinders.
“I give them a lot of credit. They came out and I thought their guards did a great job of dictating their tempo,” said Kevin Willard of St. John’s.
“I thought the biggest thing we adjusted — I thought we were either going to lose by 30 or come back and win the game — we were going to press them back, and I think it got them on their heels a little bit, it gave us a chance to turn them over and get some easy buckets, and I thought that just loosened us up a ton.”
After a halftime talk that had Kevin Willard livid for the second time this season and Myles Powell (29p, 11-20 fg, 6r) joking about his wrath post-game, it was clear as day that the team had flipped a switch following their first few second half possessions that saw Powell reach 2,000.
Perhaps overshadowed by 23 second half points on 11 shots from Powell, Romaro Gill (14p, 13r, 6b) ultimately flirted with a triple-double and helped anchor a defense that held St. John’s for key stretches including an 18-5 run near the beginning of the half which flipped the game on its head.
“I don’t think our big guys get enough credit,” replied Willard about what’s overlooked in this team.
“I think Ro and Ikey [Obiagu] — it’s funny, I always love looking at the opposing big guys when I send Ike in, because they’re like, ‘Okay, this guy’s out, now I gotta deal with that guy?’
“I think they’ve changed the way we could play. I don’t think they get enough credit. … And when I watch film, I say it now, too. At the beginning of the year, I used to get mad because everybody was beating our guards, but then I started realizing — if you listen on film, I even say it now: If a kid goes down there, block party — you’re getting blocked.”
To go along with a monster game from Gill and Obiagu, Quincy McKnight (20p, 7r, 5a, 5TO, 1stl, 7-8 FT) improved upon two assists and five turnovers before the break to compile an efficient stat line that saw him score several key buckets and go nearly perfect from the line; Seton Hall went without a turnover for the first 13 minutes of the second period and he was a major reason why.
“He was a high-level scorer coming out of Sacred Heart, and I think we’ve turned him into a really, really good point guard. He always has a little slow start when he has to defend guys the way he defended Kamar — 38 minutes defending Kamar Baldwin and then coming back having to defend these guys — I thought he did a really good job of just bouncing back and staying aggressive.”
But in the end the Myles Powell Show would steal the show and he summoned a Garden crowd clad in about one-third Pirate blue onto its feet time after time.
Powell scored 17 of Seton Hall’s 21 points from 8:17 to the 29-second mark of the second half and did it in style — it was not a quiet 29 points from the senior, who played as good a 20 minutes as we’ve seen over the years.
“I think the big thing with first halves and second halves is he gets played so many different ways, it’s always the emphasis on him, especially as the game starts, is so fresh. Everyone can yell, the coaches are yelling, ‘Here comes fire, here comes this play, fade for Powell, iso.’ They all know it,” said Willard, comparing Powell’s performances on both sides of the break.
“[But] When he’s in front of me and I’m calling something for him, they can’t yell out and tell the players what’s going on, and I think it’s a big difference. He just gets loosened up a little bit where everyone’s not so keyed on him.”
Powell has now scored 19 and 23 points in consecutive second halves.
“We’ve been blessed to watch him play for the last three-and-a-half years. He always has that look in his eye,” said Willard of Powell taking over down the stretch.
“I never really worry about whether he’s throwing it to somebody or missing a shot, or turning it over. You’re looking at a pro, and I can’t say it enough, the best player in college basketball. He always has that look in his eye. I tell everybody it’s only a matter of time.”
“When one of the best coaches in the country calls you one of the best [in the country], it’s hard to lack confidence,” said Powell, sitting next to his coach, when asked how the constant compliments feel.
“This is why I came back for my senior year. I have a great group of teammates, I have a great coaching staff. Without them I’m nothing. I’m blessed to be in this situation.”
After scoring his final two points of the game with :29 to play, Powell trotted down the court and smiled at the baseline camera and crowd in cool fashion, soaking up the stage in one of his greatest performances of many.
The senior star from Seton Hall must know that he’s going to have a couple more bites of the apple in the Big Apple.
And if he plays his cards right, one of those shots will come in late March on the grandest of stages.
A stage he has surely dreamt of since realizing his hooping prowess and one that this program has yearned of for 30 years.