Playing with relentlessness. Holding the opponent to around 40% shooting from the floor. Forcing 17 turnovers.
That’s the sort of thing St. John’s was supposed to be doing to opponents this season. And it’s exactly what Seton Hall did to the Storm on Wednesday night.
St. John’s held leads of 13 points in the first half and seven points with 11 minutes left, but looked powerless to keep the Pirates from coming at them late in the game and ultimately watched the Hall streak by for a 84-72 Big East victory before 4,977 at Carnesecca Arena. It was a vintage physical battle between the conference’s two metropolitan area outposts with 44 fouls called.
The teams are going in very different directions. St. John’s (14-9, 4-8) has lost three of four, the lone victory a two-pointer against last-place Georgetown. Seton Hall (14-9, 7-5) has won six of seven and has now prevailed in five straight Big East road games.
St. John’s seemed to find a spark in the second half after Andre Curbelo earned a pair of technical fouls and his second ejection of the season after mixing it up with Seton Hall’s KC Ndefo with 13:35 to play. The Storm scored seven straight points for a 53-46 lead and was still up seven points with 11 minutes to play. But, as has been the case in so many ways this St. John’s season, they could not sustain the momentum. Seton Hall scored on six straight possessions for a 16-2 run and never looked back.
“We have an older team . . . they didn’t play into their hands,” Pirates coach Shaheen Holloway said.
Added Al-Amir Dawes, who had 18 of his 21 points in the second half, “we have a will to win — we fight no matter what the situation.”
Curbelo and Ndefo, an Elmont High product, began to create sparks shortly after halftime and game officials warned them to cool it during a timeout. But it continued and after Curbelo drove for a layup and a 46-44 lead with 13:38 and came up chirping at Ndefo. Curbelo was whistled for a technical foul and then threw his eyewear, earning a second technical and an ejection. Ndefo also was charged with a technical.
“It really changed the trajectory of the game,” Storm coach Mike Anderson said. “Any time you’re in the heat of the battle, cooler heads have got to prevail. . . . Now he’s out of the game and you’ve got to have somebody else step up and we didn’t answer the call.”
AJ Storr had 15 points, Posh Alexander, back after missing two games with an ankle injury, had 13 points and David Jones had 11 points for St. John’s. Kadary Richmond had 15 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists and Ndefo had 10 points for the Pirates.
St. John’s shot 40.7% from the floor, committed 17 turnovers and missed 10 free throws. Seton Hall scored 28 points off the Storm turnovers and shot 50% from the floor for the game. The Pirates capped their 16-2 run with three-pointers on three straight possessions, the last by Jamir Harris for a 64-57 lead with 8:10 to play.
“They scored 28 points off of turnovers and one of the things we always talk about is ‘value the basketball,’” Anderson said, “but we were giving them opportunities to score.”