NEWARK — If it’s darkest before dawn, then St. John’s can’t wait to wake up from this nightmare of a season. Chris Mullin has been able to count on a great effort from his inexperienced crew as the losses pile up, but even that gave way to despair in a 79-60 blowout loss to Seton Hall Wednesday night at Prudential Center.
The Pirates went on a 15-3 run to start the second half and built their lead to 49-29 as Angel Delgado made repeated trips to the rim without much opposition. By the halfway mark of the second half, Mullin inserted walk-on freshmen Elijah Holifield and Abdul Dial as a reminder to his players not to surrender to the hardships they have faced as their losing streak has grown to 11 games.
“It must have been a bad halftime speech, I guess,” Mullin said. “The start of the second half cost us the game. More importantly, there was no resistance. It was disappointing.”
Seton Hall (14-6, 4-4 Big East) got 15 points and 17 rebounds from the 6-9, 245-pound Delgado, who was too much for the Red Storm to handle in the paint, where they were outscored by the Pirates 44-22. Isaiah Whitehead added 19 points for the Hall, and Khadeen Carrington had 11. Christian Jones had 15 points for St. John’s (7-14, 0-8), which shot 29.2 percent from the field and was outrebounded 55-40.
Coming off a tough loss to Marquette on Sunday when the Red Storm had a chance to win in the final minute, they got off to a decent start Wednesday when Jones scored four points to spark a brief 8-0 surge for an 18-10 lead. But moments later, 6-7 Kassoum Yakwe, who totaled eight points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots, picked up his second foul and went to the bench with 9:19 left in the half.
That was a signal for the bigger Pirates to attack the rim. They put together a 24-8 run for a 34-26 halftime lead. Whitehead had eight points in the stretch.
“St. John’s is so undersized,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “Yakwe and Jones battle.”
But without injured big man Yankuba Sima, St. John’s simply lacks the strength to contend with a player like Delgado. Mullin said he considered putting Yakwe back in the game in the first half but decided against it.
“I thought we got through the half OK,” Mullin said. “But so much for that because we came out terrible in the second half.”
The Pirates’ second-half run seemed to take the fight out of the Red Storm. “A game like tonight, you shoot 29 percent, you can play as hard as you want, but that’s going to drain you,” Mullin said.
Things don’t get any easier. The Red Storm faces No. 6 Villanova on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.