The Pirates offense began the afternoon with the same blistering pace and efficiency they displayed in their previous two blowout wins against St. John's. Unfortunately for Seton Hall (13-7, 2-5), their hot shooting was matched throughout much of the first and the Johnnies (13-7, 5-3) were able to stay hot into the early stages of the second half, defeating Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden, 71-67.
Despite a torrid shooting performance from Seton Hall (as high as 80% from the field AND from behind the arc) in the first 12 minutes, St. John's chipped away to pull even in a game the Pirates had led by as many as eight points. In the blink of an eye, the home team had claimed all of the game's momentum in the final minutes of the opening half, which saw the Johnnies (red) storm into the break with a five point advantage on a 17-4 run.
Point guard Tom Maayan (4pts/5ast/4to) played his best basketball in the first half, which featured a combination of crisp passes and three (!) penetrating lay-up attempts, showing off the new found confidence that he apparently picked up somewhere in the last week. Maayan finished two strongly, but the third, a reverse attempt, was blocked to no fault of Tommy's, but by the freakish arm-span of St. John's freshman, Chris Obekpa (4pts/4blk). Regardless of result, it was tremendous to see Tommy unafraid in taking the basketball to the rim when the defender decided to give him the open space. Hopefully we continue to see such confidence in his decision making to shoot the basketball moving forward.
Speaking of Obekpa, who was a one-time Seton Hall recruit, the youngster has the uncanny ability of turning a blocked shot into a long outlet pass. Despite the color of the uniform, it would be fun to watch O-block-pa, play the game throughout his collegiate career, if he didn't come off as such a dirty player. First, he swung at Teague when the two were tangled up and running down the floor late in the second half. Luckily, Obekpa took some steam off the punch and was able to turn the back of his wrist into Teague's face, giving him nothing more than a gentle shove. In the game's closing minutes, after a foul was called on the Pirates, he appeared to grab Brian Oliver and attempt to toss him into the first row, under the baseline. Of course, the officials didn't call Obekpa on either of his subtle, not-so subtle, intentional fouls.
The storm continued as the two clubs took the floor in the second half as Jakarr Sampson got things started with a posterizing dunk that seemed to momentarily take all the morale away from the Pirates. Although Seton Hall never regained their largely unattainable shooting touch, they managed to rip off a 11-2 run in the middle of the second half as they decided to start running their offense through the Dancing Bear, Eugene Teauge (22pts/5reb).
An extremely chippy and poorly officiated final ten minutes saw Seton Hall inch their way within a point at the under four timeout, but D'Angelo Harrison, who made 13 of St. John's last 15 points, proved to be too much for the Pirates and the charity stripe (9-of-10). I can count on one hand the amount of times I've mentioned poor officiating in a game recap during the four years of operating GonzoBall/SOJ, but, this was one of the worst I've seen in recent years.
From missed would-be intentional fouls, to two missed goaltend violations, to the missed finger poke to Fuquan Edwin's eye during a critical and late possession, it was a mess. Seton Hall has every right to be frustrated with the officiating, but, of course, it's difficult to lay claim that the blown calls swayed the final outcome. The Pirates could have still left the Garden with a victory, but only managed two made field goals in the game's final five minutes. The show must go on, Seton Hall is back in action Wednesday, at Georgetown.