NEWARK, N.J. — It started with hot shooting and ended with a back-and-forth closeness that is known to accompany rivalries.
No. 23 Seton Hall used a hot first half from the perimeter to build a ten-point halftime lead that they would ultimately protect down the stretch in a hard-fought 75-70 New Year’s Eve win over St. John’s.
Seton Hall looked bogged down early by St. John’s superior length — 6’5 triple-double threat Justin Simon was routinely the shortest guy in red — but shook themselves awake early via a 14-2 run that featured a trio of Myles Powell (16p, 4-7 3pt) threes as the Pirates appeared content with shooting over the Red Storm’s length in a zone look.
Unable to deal directly with St. John’s approach of limiting Angel Delgado’s (12p, 12r, 6a) touches and crowding the paint, the Hall just kept passing around it and shooting over it — to great effect.
The Pirates would assist on 12 of 14 first half buckets and drill 10 of their 18 threes en route to a building a 43-33 lead at the half despite not scoring a field goal for the final three minutes and getting out-muscled in the paint 14-4.
The Red Storm wanted to prove the first half was just some hot shooting from the hosts and an early 8-0 run in the second half immediately shrunk Seton Hall’s cushion, but it was a pair of Ish Sanogo (4a, 2r) influenced plays that jump-started a commanding 13-0 counterpunch when Seton Hall’s glue guy assisted on a pair of buckets on consecutive possessions; the run ended in Sanogo and Tariq Owens receiving technicals for trash talking.
Leading 58-43 with the largest lead of the game and 13 minutes to play, the Red Storm perpetuated the game of runs by going on a 12-2 to lock the game in for an exciting close.
Again leading 65-62 heading into the under-four, St John’s head coach Chris Mullin received a technical which he protested by grabbing the Red Storm’s radio microphone, but the Hall was unable to convert of the ensuing free throws.
Up three points with just under two to play, Seton Hall finally received a huge basket in the paint when Delgado put back an offensive board to give his guys a 70-65 lead that they would cling to the rest of the nail-biting way.
St. John’s defensive approach gave Seton Hall fits. It was masked in the first half by outstanding shooting and ball movement, but it was clear from very early on that the Red Storm’s length in their zone was going to be their defensive calling card. The Hall was outscored in the paint 30-16; I wonder if other teams will adopt similar looks as the season goes on.
The game old “game of runs” proverb was certainly true tonight. The Red Storm started it off with a 9-0 run early, Seton Hall answered with a 14-2 and the rest was history. The most important of the whole bunch were a 13-0 second half surge from the Hall after their lead was cut to 45-43, and St. John’s corresponding answer to keep the game close until the end.
Reliance on the outside shot can also be looked at as a positive. Although it probably won them the game today and can be seen as one-dimensional, Seton Hall was relying more on scoring within the arc until tonight, so it can conversely be said that the Pirates showed versatility today by winning in a way they haven’t really done so far this year.