St. John’s presents benchmark game for Seton Hall

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Close to a week removed from a narrow loss at Providence and a 30-point smear by Villanova, Seton Hall will have the chance to begin an upward trend against St. John’s.

Chris Mullin’s Red Storm have just snapped a losing streak of their own after downing DePaul by 10 on Monday to end a four-game skid that started after… they beat DePaul for the first time on New Year’s Day.

After starting 2-5, St. John’s (9-11, 3-4) has since shown progress and fight most notably when they slammed Syracuse by 33 and then beat Butler in their Big East opener a week later, though they did get blasted 83-55 by an inconsistent Georgetown team.

The Johnnies’ scoring power comes from a tandem of young guards (and former Seton Hall targets) in Shamorie Ponds (17 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.3 apg) and Marcus LoVett (16.4 ppg, 3.4 apg) who on paper have the upper hand against Khadeen Carrington & Co.; LoVett is shooting 14-of-32 (43.8%) from three in conference play. Federico Mussini (8.4 ppg) has slipped to the first guard off the bench role after seeing more time a season ago.

Up front, Tariq Owens (5.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.5 bpg — another SH target), Kassoume Yakwe (4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg), and junior college transfer Bashir Ahmed (12.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) do the heavy lifting in a rotation that only goes about eight-deep since the transfer of forward Yankuba Sima about two months ago. It started with Chris Obekpa, and now Owens has stepped in for Sima to maintain a healthy blocks per game average for the Red Storm.

While St. John’s is a game you chalk up as easier on paper, you can bet this bunch won’t just roll over on Sunday. Remember: the last meeting, which marked Seton Hall’s first regular season sweep of their cross-river rival since 2004-05 ended with a scrum after things we can only guess were said to Derrick Gordon.

Chris Mullin’s team plays at the 35th-quickest tempo and are pretty much middle of the pack in all other statistical areas except for their reliance on three-pointers — only 24 other schools score a higher percentage of points from beyond the arc; St. John’s has four guys who shoot over 38-percent from deep on the season.

For Seton Hall, there are countless areas to focus on Sunday, but a more in-sync offense with improved point guard play is at the top of the list. An improved intensity should come naturally with the Hall playing at home and against a local rival while non-point guard ball movement has also ebbed and flowed this season with no true consistency. 

Regardless, this is clearly a “show me” game for many Seton Hall fans. Perhaps justified, Kevin Willard has claimed he and his team need more time practicing in the bowels of Walsh Gym — they will have had five full days to rejuvenate, so not many excuses remain come noon Sunday. 

Last 10 meetings (SH 6-4; all-time 33-50):

Feb. 21, 2016, SETON HALL 72, St. John’s 71, New York, N.Y.
Jan. 27, 2016, SETON HALL 79, St. John’s 60, Newark, N.J.
Feb. 21, 2015, St. John’s 85, SETON HALL 72, Queens, N.Y.
Dec. 31, 2014, SETON HALL 78, St. John’s 67, Newark, N.J.
Feb. 13, 2014, St. John’s 68, SETON HALL 67, Newark, N.J.
Jan. 23, 2014, St. John’s 77, SETON HALL 76, Queens, N.Y.
Jan. 27, 2013, St. John’s 71, SETON HALL 67, New York, N.Y.
Feb. 14, 2012, SETON HALL 94, St. John’s 64, Newark, N.J.
March 3, 2011, SETON HALL 84, St. John’s 70, Newark, N.J.
Feb. 17, 2010, SETON HALL 59, St. John’s 50, Queens, N.Y..

Projected St. John’s starters
G – Shamorie Ponds
G – Marcus LoVett
G/F – Malik Ellison
F – Bashir Ahmed
F – Kassoume Yakwe

Projected Seton Hall starters
PG – Madison Jones
G – Khadeen Carrington
F – Desi Rodriguez
F – Ish Sanogo
F – Angel Delgado

When: Noon, Sunday
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: AM 970 (Gary Cohen & Dave Popkin), Sirius 84, XM 84
Opening line: TBD

  • PadrePirate

    StJ is a young team but energetic and scrappy, diving for loose balls, challenging shots, etc. They have not been consistent this year, but are capable of beating us at home. This game should not be overlooked. The Hall must right the ship and come out strong.

    PS it’s not a good sign to see these new NY recruits choose St John’s over SHU. We could have really used Ponds or Lovett at PG.

    • Ardy

      Lets hope that the Pirates not only match StJ’s intensity but exceeds it. I like your post because that is the exactly what they need to do to win. Lets not take anything for granted

      • PadrePirate

        We are currently #51 in Defensive Efficiency, 89 in DReb and 95 in Steals (not bad). But overall, we’re just slightly above avg, scoring 74 pts/gm and giving up 70 pts/gm. We’re below avg in TO’s forced and among the worst in D-1 in TO’s committed. Last year, this team really prided itself on defense. This year, the D is decent but not often lacks that extra clamp down mentality. From the games I’ve seen, we give up a lot of open shots around the arc and don’t always rotate well, giving up bunnies at the rim. Most opposing guards are too much for our guys.

  • Andrew Herbst

    Can’t look past the Johnies. They are young, but have showed a lot of heart. They are moving in the right direction. Can’t afford to get off to a bad start.

  • LBP

    I am worried about S. Ponds –he is a true talent and must be controlled by Madison Jones and /or J.T.

    • PadrePirate

      Ponds is good and just a freshman, with lots of room for growth. I haven’t seen enough of JT to know if he lives up to “lock-down” expectations, but with our offense struggling so bad right now, I don’t think we can afford to swap D for O. He certainly could not beat the 3/4 press Nova was throwing at us and gave up a few TO’s. Still needs to develop his offensive game to be a contributer.

  • fouline

    This is a metro New York/New Jersey bragging rights game not just a BE match up. So all bets are off like in previous years.

  • Matty P

    Another top BE school taking a hit from losing a player this year. Myles Davis announced he’ll be leaving Xavier. Hasn’t had much of an impact this year since he had to sit out a while, but I think a lot of people were thinking once he gets back that they could be a challenger to Nova if he got back into form.

    • Woah, stunner. Just a few weeks after reinstatement after a long suspension.

  • Matty P

    Butler got lucky to get out of DePaul with a win today. Butler only held a lead for maybe 2 mins of total game time and DePaul went on a 14-15 min span of not making a field goal to end the game and start OT.

    • PadrePirate

      MU had a strong game vs the Jays too. Great to see the level of competition in the BE this year, where just about any of these teams can put up a good fight on any given night. Hope the Hall can jump into the fray and turn it up a notch too.

  • PadrePirate

    Anyone know what D.Gordon ended up doing after graduation? I thought he might have made a good assistant.

    • He is living out west, not sure what his occupation is though. I know he had passed the first few hurdles of being a fire fighter.

  • VinBick

    This is a MUST win at noon.

  • Matt

    Can’t look past this game today…..