NEWARK — St. John’s saw its winning streak halted in a most devastating way Saturday night.
Playing Seton Hall in the most important matchup of the New York-area Big East rivals in years, the Red Storm had a critical call with less than four seconds left go the Pirates’ way. On the ensuing play, Shavar Reynolds Jr. sank a three-pointer with four-tenths of a second remaining to give Seton Hall a 76-74 victory before 10,481 at Prudential Center.
St. John’s (12-1, 0-1) had won 12 straight to start the season and was looking to break into the national rankings in Monday’s poll.The Red Storm led for the first 39 minutes until Myles Powell’s driving layup gave the Pirates (10-3, 1-0) a 73-72 lead with a minute left.
The Storm got the lead back on a pair of free throws by Mustapha Heron with 42.9 seconds remaining, but Heron and Shamorie Ponds each missed the front end of a one-and-one in the last 30 seconds. Ponds entered the game shooting 88 percent at the line. Heron was at 74 percent.
“It’s part of the game,” coach Chris Mullin said. “There’s a lot that happens during a game, but the fundamentals, that’s usually what it comes back to.”
Seton Hall inbounded the ball with 3.9 seconds to play and trailing by one after LJ Figueroa blocked Powell’s drive out of bounds. Quincy McKnight’s pass-in from the baseline was deflected by Figueroa, who tried to keep it from going out of bounds over the sideline. Officials whistled the play dead, though replays showed Figueroa never landed out of bounds and got the ball into the hands of Heron.
It could have clinched a Red Storm victory. Instead, officials reviewed it and gave Seton Hall the ball on the sideline with 3.1 seconds to play. The Pirates got the ball to Sando Mamukelashvili, who drove and kicked it out to Reynolds. A walk-on last season who now is on scholarship, he hit the three-pointer with four-tenths of a second left.
“I never really got an explanation about why they blew the whistle,” Figueroa said. Added Heron: “Hey, we’re on the road.”
Big East representatives said the game officials relayed that the review was to examine the clock, which didn’t start on Figueroa’s deflection. They didn’t address whether he had stepped out of bounds.
Asked if he had gotten an explanation about the call from officials, Mullin replied, “If you get one, let me know . . . Even though you don’t get fined in college, I’m going to opt — I can’t believe you don’t get fined and I should say something — I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.”
Heron had 19 points and Marvin Clark II and Justin Simon each scored 16 for St. John’s. Ponds had eight points and shot 2-for-13, but his seven assists and five steals were instrumental in the 10-point lead St. John’s brought into the last 6:35. Powell’s 15 points led Seton Hall.
After about 34 minutes of excellent basketball, St. John’s went into its biggest drought of the game. The Red Storm missed 10 straight shots, allowing Seton Hall to go on a 10-0 run and tie the score at 69 on Mamukeshavili’s three-pointer with 3:30 left.
St. John’s greeted its biggest challenge to date with its best half of the season, taking a 13-2 lead after only 2:45. Its first three possessions ended with two three-pointers by Heron and one by Clark. The fourth and fifth ended with Figueroa finishing fast breaks. “A game on the road, you have to meet it with fire,” Heron said. “You need fire and intensity. We didn’t want to let their crowd get into it.”
Those 20 minutes ended with St. John’s up 45-36. And the Red Storm did it without Ponds scoring a point — though he did have four of their eight steals and six of the 11 assists they recorded on 16 baskets. St. John’s shot 52 percent for the half and shot 7-for-14 from three-point range.
“We played a good first half,” Mullin said. “We kind of just let them hang around and they made some big shots at the end.”