Thirty fretful minutes cannot diminish the grit and explosiveness St. John’s played with under pressure to earn their 20th win at Madison Square Garden by the score of 78-70, in front of a lively crowd.
The Johnnies improve to 78-7 in conference and 20-8 overall, while Seton Hall drops to 7-8 in conference and 16-11 overall.
St. John’s sticks around the area to take on the Xavier Musketeers for the first time this season in St. John’s final home game at Carnesecca Arena.
St. John’s grabbed a large lead early but needed to hold off Seton Hall — and their extended pressure defenses — late.
The Red Storm did not miss a beat with Mustapha Heron out again with a sore right knee and with Bryan Trimble, Jr. picking up the spot start. The first half was made up of St. John’s dominating early, Seton Hall going on a little run to cut into the margin, and St. John’s finishing the half strong.
St. John’s dominant start was highlighted by going up by 23 points after nine minutes of game time, holding Seton Hall to only 5 points over that span.
St. John’s, at its best when it gets into transition, took advantage of Seton Hall’s sloppy early play. In the half, Seton Hall turned the ball over 15 times, and St. John’s scored 18 points off turnovers.
Perhaps St. John’s settled with the big lead.
Or Seton Hall, always well-coached, adjusted.
The Pirates began to crawl back into the game.
Seton Hall went on an 11-0 run, with six of those points being layups.
Seton Hall exposed St. John’s arguably biggest weakness: rebounding. The Pirates grabbed 11 offensive boards in the half, thought they only produced four second chance points.
St. John’s responded with a spurt of their own to finish out the half.
Fittingly on Senior Night, the senior Marvin Clark II had a particularly efficient half. Clark scored 11 points (4/7 FG, 3/6 3PT) while grabbing four rebounds as St. John’s rolled to a 38-20 lead. Meanwhile, Justin Simon was effectively guarding Myles Powell, not allowing him time to catch and attack.
Also fitting in a cycle-of-life type of way, the three freshmen, Greg Williams, Jr., Josh Roberts, and Marcellus Earlington, contributed a combined meaningful 13 minutes. Two of the three had been glued to the bench for most of the first contest.
Only four minutes into the second half, however, Seton had cut five points off of St. John’s halftime lead.
Seton Hall cleaned up their play in the second half, committing seven turnovers, putting a damper on St. John’s transition game.
St. John’s also cleaned up — on the boards, holding Seton Hall to six offensive rebounds in the half. The Red Storm blocked 12 shots, with six of those blocks going to freshmen Greg Williams Jr. and Marcellus Earlington, who logged critical minutes for the squad.
But despite Ponds’s, Clarks’s, and Sedee Keita’s best efforts, the pesky Pirates would not go away. Seton Hall cut the lead to under 10 points with four minutes left in the game, and got as close as five with under two minutes to go.
The fans were nervous.
The Red Storm struggled to execute against the Hall’s full court zone pressure — and their halfcourt zone looks. A mistake by Justin Simon saw him approach the pressure tentatively, turn the ball over, and foul out while Myles Powell attempted a layup.
However, the senior Clark converted at the line late and both Figueroa and Ponds threw down a massive dunk to seal a 78-70 victory for the Red Storm.
Sedee Keita had his best performance as a Johnny, chipping in 6 points (2/3 FG) and 4 rebounds to go along with 4 blocks, providing an interior presence that limited the Seton Hall bigs.
St. John’s Red Storm
Shamorie Ponds: 27 points (10/18 FG, 1/6 3PT), 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 turnovers
Marvin Clark II: 18 points (6/10 FG, 4/8 3PT), 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers
Justin Simon: 10 points (4/6 FG), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers
Myles Powell: 26 points (9/21 FG, 2/8 3PT), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 6 turnovers
Michael Nzei: 11 points (4/4 FG), 3 rebounds, 1 assist