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St. John's vs. Seton Hall final: 79-60; Johnnies were manhandled by the Pirates at 'The Rock'

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Mullin's crew was burned in the paint.

By: Wendell Cruz
By: Wendell Cruz

It was just another night in the Big East for St. John's but this one was ugly.

The Red Storm, who have now lost 11 in a row, took the trip across the Hudson River and were pounded in the paint by the Seton Hall Pirates, losing 79 to 60, at the Prudential Center on Wednesday night.

"They killed us on the boards," Chris Mullin said following the loss. "We went zone to try to keep them from hurting us with their dribble penetration. I thought it worked pretty well but they really crashed the boards. (Angel Delgado) had a heck of a night and their big men really play their roles well."

Christian Jones led the Johnnies in scoring with 15 points, Durand Johnson added nine points and Ron Mvouika put up nine points. Federico Mussini, nine points on 3-of-12 shooting, had problems with the length of the Pirates backcourt and Felix Balamou and Malik Ellison combined for just 10 points.

While they missed multiple easy layups and the lack of ball movement was evident, the Johnnies lost this game in the paint. Delgado (15 points and 17 rebounds) and Ismael Sanogo (eight points and seven rebounds) helped the Pirates dominate the interior with their physicality and strength. Kevin Willard's team out-rebounded the Red Storm 56 to 40, scored 44 points in the paint and had 16 second chance points, as Jones, Kassoum Yakwe and Amar Alibegovic failed to find an answer all night long.

The night actually started in a positive manner for the Red Storm. As the Pirates struggled with turnovers (nine of them in the first half) and poor shooting from the perimeter, the Johnnies jumped out to an early 18-10 lead and held an edge for the majority of the opening half. But ugly shot selection, careless ball handling and missed layups sparked an 8-0 Seton Hall run as the home team took their first lead of the night with 4:25 remaining in the first frame.

The Red Storm committed 10 giveaways in the first half and the offensive production that they showed to begin the game completely collapsed in the final four minutes on their way to an eight-point deficit at the break. Mvouika and Jones combined to score 14 in the first but Yakwe (eight points, 10 rebounds and four blocks) picked up two fouls, limiting their ability to challenge Seton Hall inside. Mussini also only had two points.

In the opening minutes of the second stanza, the Pirates went on a 15-3 run that put a Johnnies' comeback completely out of reach. Delgado and Sanogo scored eight of the 15, forcing Mullin to insert Elijah Holifield and Abdul Dial, two walk-ons, with 15 minutes remaining in the game.

"It must have been a bad halftime speech," Mullin said. "The start of the second half cost us the game. More importantly there was no resistance. They were doing what they wanted to do. It was disappointing.

"The start of the second half didn't even give us to a chance to see if we could hang in there. I thought if we came out and put a little pressure on them it would have been interesting. We've done that before but we didn't do that tonight. Don't hang your head and don't blame your teammate."

Isaiah Whitehead finished with 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting while Khadeen Carrington scored 11 points and Desi Rodriguez added eight for the Pirates. They shot 44 percent from the field and 36 percent from downtown while the Johnnies finished with 29 percent shooting and 38 percent from downtown.

St. John's (7-14, 0-8) will return to Madison Square Garden on Sunday for a showdown against the first place and sixth ranked Villanova Wildcats, who are coming off their first Big East loss since early January of last year.