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St. John’s drops Big East opener 77-68 to Seton Hall

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The Red Storm fought hard but never led in this one.

FinishFirstSports
Wendell Cruz

After a flurry of game postponements related to COVID-19, St. John’s opened Big East play on the road at Seton Hall. They hung tough against their local rival but ultimately fell to the Pirates 77-68.

Seton Hall’s size proved to be an advantage in the first half. The Pirates are a physically imposing team that began this contest trying to wear St. John’s down in the paint.

The opening 10 minutes played more to the pace of Seton Hall. The Pirates kept St. John’s from running the floor, forcing the Johnnies to run half-court sets against their disciplined defense. The issues the Red Storm face in their half-court offense is that they often settle for deep two’s. They are also not a great three-point shooting team. Consequently, St. John’s hit a mere 2 of their first 10 field goals, many of which were uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, the next 10 minutes were a different story, as St. John’s punched back and went into the half only down 5, despite not playing the game at their preferred pace.

The Johnnies, powered by a 12-2 run, tied the contest at 23. St. John’s proved to be formidable defending the bigger Pirates team by applying full-court pressure and rotating well, not allowing them to continue forcefully attacking the rim.

For as strong as the Red Storm finished the first-half, they came out flat directly out of intermission. A quick 6-0 Pirates run prompted coach Mike Anderson to call for time. By the time the under-16 television timeout hit, Seton Hall had extended their lead to 10. While the Red Storm clawed at Seton Hall’s lead all game, they would never actually take the lead.

Much like the first half, St. John’s got into their flow as the game progressed. The Pirates were not able to easily navigate the tenacious Red Storm defense, which forced turnovers and made every basket at the rim difficult. The Johnnies used their defensive prowess to speed the game up and get within striking distance of the Pirates.

Unfortunately for the Johnnies, any effort they made to gain momentum and turn the tide of the game was met with resistance from Seton Hall’s best player, Sandro Mamukelashvili. He was nothing short of dominant today. Nothing the Johnnies threw his way altered him. He was attacking St. John’s inside and out, making a significant statement in the conference opener. Mamukelashvili finished with 32 points, 9 rebounds, all while shooting 66% from the field.

On the other side, Julian Champagnie gave Seton Hall fits in this one. Champagnie is a natural scorer and the bonafide leader of this St. John’s team. Each game he is making his case as one of the better players in the Big East. He had 24 points tonight and went 10-19 from the field.

The Johnnies will stay on the road for their next contest. Up next is a trip to Washington D.C. for a matchup with the Georgetown Hoyas. That contest will tip at 7:30 PM ET and will be televised on FS1.