NEWARK — St. John’s would have needed to be perfectly sharp and solid to surmount its fierce size disadvantage against Angel Delgado and Seton Hall. It is on those measures, rather than on the height chart, that the Red Storm’s players truly came up short.
“I told them at halftime they were soft and selfish,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said Sunday after an 86-73 loss in a game that proved way too much of an uphill climb.
St. John’s came nowhere near the perfection it would have taken to overcome Delgado, a 6-10, 240-pound junior who had 21 points and 20 rebounds.
“He looked like Moses Malone tonight to me,” Mullin said.
Delgado was more like an excited youngster as he pleaded with coach Kevin Willard to put him back on the floor in the final minute so he could get one last rebound. He grabbed it, to resounding cheers from 9,801 at Prudential Center.
“That was my dream,” Delgado said after becoming the first Big East player since Providence’s Jamine Peterson in 2010 to have a 20-20 game. “As soon as I came to this school, I said one day I want to get 20 and 20, and I did it. I feel great right now.”
The Storm, in contrast, left feeling rather small. Into the second half, Delgado had as many rebounds as the entire St. John’s team. Seton Hall outrebounded the visitors 45-33 and outscored them 46-30 in the paint.
“Statistically, they killed us on the boards, but I think it was more demoralizing. We actually played some good defense, but they were just keeping balls alive,” Mullin said of his team (9-12, 3-5 in the Big East), which failed to sustain momentum from a home victory over DePaul last Monday.
Perhaps St. John’s would have been stronger if it still had 6-11 center Yankuba Sima, who left the team during the season and has since announced that he is transferring to Kansas State. But it would have taken more than one player to offset Delgado and a huge, deep front line.
“Some of our guys are not strong yet,” Mullin said. “We can put them in the weight room for 24 hours, but I don’t think they’re going to get that strength. It’s going to take a summer.”
It would have taken a near- miracle to climb out of the 20-point halftime hole the Red Storm faced. St. John’s guard Marcus LoVett was strong from start to finish with 22 points and forward Bashir Ahmed had 13 of his 19 points in a respectable second half. But it was too little against Delgado.
“We knew we were going to have to match their intensity, and we didn’t do that in the first half,” LoVett said.
Myles Powell, a freshman guard who had 19 points off the bench for Seton Hall (13-6, 3-4), considers Delgado a mentor as well as an unstoppable force on the glass. “He’s not the most athletic. You saw him miss that dunk today,’’ Powell said. “It’s that will to win that drives him to get all those rebounds.”
The Pirates were motivated after three consecutive defeats, capped by a 30-point loss to Villanova. “St. John’s is a great team. I give them a lot of credit,” Delgado said. “They play hard.”
But, it turned out, not nearly hard enough to stop him.