Jamaica N.Y. - Seton Hall and St. John's played neck-and-neck for over 30 minutes but a second half scoring drought did the visitors in as the Pirates lost their sixth straight, falling 85-72.
Isaiah Whitehead scored 19 but took 24 shots while Khadeen Carrington tallied 16 after a 10-point first half. Angel Delgado was his usual self by reeling in 13 boards in addition to his nine points. Four Johnnies scored in double figures including 20 points from Phil Greene IV and 22 and 10 rebounds from Sir`Dominic Pointer. D`Angelo Harrison added 12 points while playing with a bad calf.
Putting a recent history of slow starts behind them, Seton Hall matched St. John's in the opening minutes, sporting a balanced scoring attack. With Sterling Gibbs suspended and sitting on the end of the visitors bench closest to the scorers table, actively coaching up his teammates, the Hall found scoring from some unlikely sources.
Stephane Manga (9 pts) once again provided a spark early by slashing to the tin and was complimented by freshman guard Khadeen Carrington, who shared much of the ball handling responsibilities alongside Isaiah Whitehead. St. John's sagged off Carrington when he had the ball along the perimeter and was able to spot up for a pair of triples early. His 10-point first half masked a mostly forced Whitehead showing as the freshman entered the half 2 of 12 from the field including 0 of 7 from three and took 24 attempts on the day.
In a first half that contained minimal defense, especially in transition on Seton Hall's behalf, the score bounced back and forth with a 7-0 St. John's push fueled by D`Angelo Harrison's three-pointer from the half court Red Storm logo being the only run of note. Seton Hall answered promptly via a Brandon Mobley (7 pts, 4 rebs) triple from the wing and a put-back slam from the senior off a miss Whitehead three.
After weathering boos from the St. John's crowd every time he touched the ball in the first half including an "over-rated" chant as he dribbled out the clock on the Hall's last possession, Isaiah Whitehead came out of the locker room flying in the second period. He was instrumental in turning a 5-1 Johnnie run that gave the hosts a 46-41 lead into a 12-3 Seton Hall surge that featured nine points, an offensive board and a steal from Whitehead.
Following the two early second half runs, Seton Hall and St. John's continued the back-and-forth basketball seen in the first half until the Pirates hit a scoring drought midway through the half. The Hall found themselves in a familiar rut of poor shot selection and their defense suffered as a result, they would score just two buckets from the 11:45 mark until after the under-four timeout. The offensive lull provided an opportunity for St. John's to mount a game-changing 18-5 run that ballooned the hosts' lead to 11 at 72-61 just prior to the final media timeout, effectively putting the game out of reach.
"I thought we had a couple opportunities when we were up four, down two, we had a couple of fast breaks, Pointer made a great play [blocking Karlis' dunk attempt] and we had a couple of chances off offensive rebounds that we missed that kind of took the wind out our sails a little bit," said Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard of the turning point in the game.
The Red Storm took full advantage of a handful of open looks granted by Seton Hall and the guard combination of Phil Greene IV (20 pts, 4 asts) and Jamal Branch (7 pts) were lethal when it counted. Greene scored 13 of his 20 after halftime and Branch hit two big shots to get St. John's crippling run started.
"I would say that was our defense, we gave them way too many open looks," said Willard of St. John's 11 of 26 clip from beyond the arc. "I thought we did a pretty good job on the offensive end for the most part tonight, but they made some tough shots. once they get going, this is a fun home court advantage."
Seton Hall's sixth-straight loss and ninth in 11 games has them on the brink of falling out of the NIT and puts a real onus on them to win at least two games before Selection Sunday to make the secondary post-season tournament. A bubble team, St. John's win was essential with games against Xavier, Villanova, and Xavier over their last four games.