NEWARK - If Steve Lavin and his 15th-ranked Red Storm had any question about just how tough the Big East circuit will be this season, they got the answer Wednesday in the opening game of the conference schedule. Seton Hall hit 10 three-pointers and beat St. John's, 78-67, at the Prudential Center, halting the Red Storm's winning streak at seven games.
Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina totaled nine three-pointers and the Pirates took advantage of a key technical foul midway through the second half as they improved to 11-2. Gibbs hit five three-pointers and finished with 25 points, eight assists and no turnovers. Sina hit four three-pointers and had 14 points. St. John's (11-2) got 25 points from D'Angelo Harrison.
"Sterling Gibbs had one of the better performances any player has had against St. John's in recent years," Lavin said. "He picked his spots when to step up and knock down dagger threes, but he also executed well against our traps and found open teammates."
Sina and Gibbs hit back-to-back three-pointers in the final minute of the first half to put Seton Hall in front 40-35 at halftime. The Pirates would never relinquish the lead.
"We knew those two guys were able to shoot it -- we just didn't get to them on time," Harrison said of Gibbs and Sina. "We've got to not let the people we know can beat us beat us."
Technical fouls played a big part in the second half.
The Red Storm's Rysheed Jordan was assessed a technical with 10:50 left in what became a five-point play for Seton Hall. The Pirates' Khadeen Carrington was injured and turned the ball over, but after the Red Storm brought the ball up the floor, the referees stopped play to tend to Carrington. Jordan, upset by the decision to stop play, ended up with a technical after throwing the ball at Gibbs.
Gibbs hit both free throws, and on the ensuing possession, Sina hit a three-pointer to put Seton Hall up 58-44.
Jamal Branch converted a three-point play with 5:36 left to pull the Red Storm within 65-61. Carrington was assessed a technical foul on the play, but Harrison missed both free throws. Harrison hit two free throws on the ensuing possession to cut the deficit to 65-63 with 5:21 left, but a layup by Angel Delgado and a three-pointer by Gibbs made it 70-63, and St. John's never got closer than five after that.
"It's a report card for us," Lavin said. "Two days to get ready for Butler, then it's going to be another two days of prep to get ready for Villanova. And this is what makes the Big East one of the better leagues in the country right now is you've got to bring an 'A' game -- and that doesn't even guarantee a victory."