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St. John’s falls 82-79 in physical thriller against Seton Hall

The Johnnies fall to 1-5 in Big East play.

Wendell Cruz - Finish First Photos

Fans at Madison Square Garden were treated this afternoon with hard fought, end-to-end on-court warfare between two cross river rivals. But only the visiting fans went into the snowy afternoon happy; late free throws sealed an 82-79 Seton Hall win over the St. John’s Red Storm.

This game was a tale of two halves.

In the first frame, St. John’s looked like the better team, thanks to a frenetic defense. The Red Storm made Seton Hall uncomfortable with the ball. The Pirates could not find an offensive flow in the half court, and were stifled by fullcourt pressure and trapping. Seton Hall gave the ball up 15 times in the first half.

The most upsetting turnover the Pirates had came at the end of the first half. With the game clock winding down, St. John’s forward LJ Figueroa stole the ball around half court, and proceeded to run the floor and hit a transition layup. The Johnnies led 43-30 at the half, their largest lead of the afternoon.

Without Quincy McKnight, Seton Hall likely would have been down even more at the break. McKnight had 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists in the first half.

Coming out of the break, the game flipped almost instantly. The Pirates, who struggled mightily with the press in the first 20 minutes, responded with their own pressure and better ballhandling. After a few early Red Storm turnovers, as well incredible ball control, Seton Hall had erased St. John’s lead.

With the game tied at 58, Pirates guard Myles Powell hit a three for his team’s first lead of the contest.

From that point on, the two teams exchanged blows. Running down the floor, Red Storm forward LJ Figueroa knocked down a tough three to tie the game at 61. Powell responded right back with another three of his own, hinting at an exciting finish at Madison Square Garden.

What ensued was an exciting finish.

With St. John’s leading 73-72 with about 90 seconds remaining, Seton Hall’s Powell slashed to the basket, converting a circus layup, and taking the contact. It was on this play that Figueroa fouled out for St. John’s.

After making the free throw, Seton Hall held a 75-73 lead. The Johnnies responded right back with a strong layup from Rasheem Dunn to tie the game at 75.

The Red Storm would never reclaim after that Dunn layup. Despite a valiant fight from St. John’s, the Pirates came up with plays when they needed to. One late charge call against Dunn, plus a strong take to the basket by Powell for a score, allowed Seton Hall to exit the Garden victorious.

Despite a very quiet first half, Myles Powell proved once again why he is one of the best players in the country.

He finished with 29 points and 6 rebounds, while shooting 60% from beyond the arc. His team needed him to step up in crunch time, and he found a way to get his looks. Whether it was driving the lane or jab-stepping into some space for a shot, he found a way late. Unfortunately for St. John’s, guard Nick Rutherford could not slow Powell down forever, despite a really good defensive performance at times from Rutherford.

Additionally for Seton Hall, they were able to get multiple complementary plays from Quincy McKnight and Romaro Gill.

McKnight was the steady hand for Seton Hall, adding 20 points, seven rebounds, and five assists to the contest. He was the veteran presence the Pirates needed as the game got intense in the second half.

As for Gill, we would not blame you for mistaking him for a human fly swatter. He blocked six Red Storm shots, and a few of them were ferocious. He would finish with 14 points and 13 rebounds, as well. His big body in the middle of the lane proved to be a huge boon for the Pirates.

Despite the loss, St. John’s played a solid game; it would be misguided to say there are no positives.

Both Figueroa and Mustapha Heron had strong games. Figueroa was able to finish with 16 points, seven steals, five rebounds, and three assists. He looked like a premier player in the Big East.

Heron also had a nice afternoon, opening the game with two early threes. He finished with 18 points and was a nice scoring option for St. John’s numerous times when they needed a bucket.

Coach Mike Anderson was able to get some very quality minutes from big man Josh Roberts, who was in the starting lineup today. Roberts gave the Pirates some headaches in the paint, adding 16 points of his own. The most impressive aspect of Roberts game today was his ability to get on the offensive glass. He finished with eight rebounds, with six coming on the offensive end.

Despite the tough loss, St. John’s will return to action on Tuesday night, when they will visit Marquette. The Golden Eagles—just like St. John’s—are a team looking to avenge a slow start to Big East play. That contest will tip at 9:00 PM and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.