Leading the no. 18 team in the nation by 13 points after 20 minutes of action, the St. John’s men’s basketball team was unable to hold off Seton Hall in the second half, falling to the Pirates, 82-79, at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Despite the loss, St. John’s (12-7, 1-5 BIG EAST) had its best offensive showing of conference play, scoring 79 points and shooting 44 percent from the floor. Seton Hall (14-4, 6-0 BIG EAST) enjoyed a distinct advantage from the charity stripe; however, making 22 of their 27 free throw attempts, including nine of their last 10 down the stretch. St. John’s, on the other hand, went just 9-of-15 from line on the afternoon.
Myles Powell scored 23 of his game-high 29 points in the second half, going 9-for-11 from the floor in the latter stanza. The senior guard scored his 2,000th career point early in the second half and hit five of the Pirates’ final six field goals.
Mustapha Heron scored 18 points to lead St. John’s, going 6-of-13 from the floor and 2-of-4 from beyond the arc.
LJ Figueroa tallied 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Despite fouling out late in the second half, the junior wing recorded a career-high seven steals to go along with five rebounds and three assists. His seven steals were the most by a player in the BIG EAST this season, passing his own previous high-water mark of six set against Massachusetts on Nov. 24.
Josh Roberts also finished with 16 points, matching a career-high thanks to an 8-for-11 showing from the floor. The sophomore also grabbed eight boards and blocked a shot in 24 minutes of action.
Marcellus Earlington registered nine points while Rasheem Dunn added eight points, four boards and four assists.
St. John’s forced 15 Seton Hall turnovers in the first half, 11 of which were the result of Red Storm steals. The Pirates then went the first 13:30 of the second stanza without surrendering a possession and went on to outscore St. John’s, 52-36, in the period. The Red Storm recorded 13 steals on the game, marking the team’s sixth straight outing with double-digit thefts, the longest active streak in the nation.
Heron displayed a hot hand early, sinking his first two attempts from beyond the arc and helping St. John’s jump out to an 8-2 lead three and a half minutes into the action.
With the lead down to a pair, 16-14, at the 10-minute mark of the first half, the Johnnies’ defense came to life and fueled an 8-2 Red Storm run, putting St. John’s ahead 24-16 just over two minutes later. The Red Storm forced three turnovers in as many possessions during the spurt, turning all of those miscues into buckets on the other end.
Seton Hall pulled within one, 28-27, following a Powell 3-pointer with just under five minutes to play before the Red Storm closed the half on a 15-3 run. Figueroa scored six of those points for the Johnnies, who led 43-30 at the break. Defense once again played a critical role on the run, as the Red Storm forced four turnovers, all of which were steals, during those final four minutes of first-half action.
The Pirates quickly cut into the St. John’s advantage early in the second half, using a 13-3 run to pull within one, 54-53, on an Anthony Nelson jumper with 12:41 to go.
Seton Hall tied the game for the first time at 56 on a Romaro Gill free throw at the 10:16 mark and took its first lead of the afternoon, 61-58, on a Powell trey with just over eight minutes remaining.
The lead changed eight times over the next six minutes with neither team leading by more than a point. Seton Hall then moved ahead by two on a Powell three-point play with 1:38 to go before Dunn promptly answered with a bucket of his own to tie the game at 75 seventeen seconds later.
After a 1-for-2 trip to the line for Quincy McKinght, Seton Hall led the rest of the way, as an Earlington 3-pointer at the buzzer missed the marked and secured the Pirates’ victory.
St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson
“Well for anyone watching, I’m sure they saw a great ball game. Two teams just going after it. Obviously, it’s a neighboring team and congratulations to them. I thought their guys made the plays at the right time. Our inability to knock free throws down and they made some big free throws going down the stretch, so you have to give them credit. I told our guys that I was proud of the effort. I’m not into moral victories. We lost the game at home and that’s something that’s got to hurt, but at the same time I thought our guys came out and played against a very, very good opponent in Seton Hall and gave ourselves a chance.”
On the three-point play by Myles Powell in the second half…
“It was a big play. … I have to look back on the tape and see what exactly took place, but it was a big play in the game. True to our guys, I saw a sign of growth. Our guys didn’t panic. Even without LJ [Figueroa] out there. I thought they kept playing.”
On Myles Powell …
“He’s a veteran. I’ve seen this guy his freshman year in the NCAA Tournament and he’s gotten better. He stepped up when his team needed him to. You pay a lot of attention to him and then I think the other guys play off of him.”
On the team defense on Myles Powell in the second half…
“I thought we had some lapses coming out. I thought we played with great energy. I thought we were recognizing where he was and when he was on the floor. I thought he got loose a couple of times. … He just made plays, that’s what he does.”
On what he learned about his team in this game…
“I’m proud that they continued to fight and I thought we got better. Our defense had been pretty good and we hadn’t been scoring. I thought we kind of amped it up and I thought the guys played for one another. They trusted one another. I thought you saw [Mustapha Heron] come out and he looked more relaxed. [Josh Roberts] had one of his better games, but what that says is that we played as a team. With that being said, that gave us a chance. Again, we’re cleaning up some things going down the stretch and that’s inexperience versus experience. I keep saying that, but you can see the guys that made the plays for them, [Myles Powell], [Quincy McKnight]. Again I like this team and how they’ve responded in some tough, tough loses.”
St. John’s Senior Guard Mustapha Heron
On the frustration from this loss…
“I think as a competitor, it’s frustrating. But you’ve got to look at the mistakes you’ve made. We had a couple of turnovers late in the second half and then we missed free throws. We always talk about turnovers and free throws being the telltale of all of our games, so that’s what we’ve got to go work on.”
On the final possessions of the game…
“My teammates make plays. I don’t have to have the ball every possession.”
On Myles Powell…
“I’ve been competing against Myles [Powell] since we were in middle school. We’ve been friends since high school, so to see somebody who has gone through his struggles off the court, to be able to stay focused on the court, I’m proud of him and he’s become a really good player.”
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