The last time the St. John's Red Storm and the Seton Hall Pirates met was January 27. The Pirates took the game 79-60. The two teams meet again Sunday at Madison Square Square. Since that day, both teams have gone in different directions.
St. John's won its first Big East game on Wednesday 80-65 against Depaul. The Hall have gone 4-1 in conference since January 27 and are now in sole possession of third place in the Big East.
What's new with St. John's?
On January 27, Chris Mullin tabbed Kassoum Yakwe, Durand Johnson, Amar Alibegovic, Ron Mvouika, Federico Mussini as starters. One thing noticeably different now is Yankuba Sima is back for the Johnnies. Since coming back, the Spaniard has not played the big minutes he did before his injury, and has come off the bench. In Wednesday's win, the freshman recorded 6 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals and 1 assist in 18 minutes.
Another player who has seen a change in minutes is Federico Mussini. Mussini has started 24 of 27 games for the Johnnies. The freshman from Italy has seen a drastic reduction of minutes in the last three games. In last Saturday's loss at Villanova, Mussini played a season-low 13 minutes. He did not start Wednesday in St. John's only win during Big East play. In his place, Malik Ellison scored 11 points and added 3 rebounds and 4 assists.
A hot player for the Johnnies is Kassoum Yakwe. The 6-7 freshman from Mali is averaging 11.2 points and 6 rebounds over the last five games for Chris Mullin. Yakwe did not play in the first six games this year, but in the last five games Yakwe has played an average of 29 minutes in the last five games and turned into one of the Red Storm's key players.
The Hall is on fire, winners of four out of five since the last meeting with St. John's. Isaiah Whitehead is white hot. The Pirate sophomore is averaging 21.4 points, 6.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds over the last 5 games. In his worst game on February 6 against Georgetown, the Lincoln High School standout was 3-15 from the field but he was 9-10 from the charity stripe. He finished the game with 16 points, 4 assists and 5 rebounds.
Another player who has been exceptional for coach Kevin Willard is Angel Delgado. Last year's Big East Rookie of the year went off in the last matchup with 15 points and 17 rebounds. He is averaging a double-double this year with 10.4 points and 10 rebounds. In the last five games, Delgado is averaging 13.8 points and 10.8 rebounds.
Seton Hall has not made any significant changes to their lineup/rotation. However, they have cut the minutes of the bench. In their last game against Georgetown, only two bench players played more than 10 minutes. Those players were Derrick Gordon and Michael Nzei. Seton Hall has a good chance at making the NCAA tournament with games remaining against Providence and Xavier, and they are cutting their rotation in preparation for post season play.