Desi Rodriguez lead the way for the Pirates on Sunday with a career-high of 24 points in the team’s 62-61 win over St John’s at Madison Square Garden.
The Pirates now sit at a 19-7 overall record and are 9-5 in the Big East.
Rodriguez got off to an electric start, as he led all players with 19 points going into halftime; three less points than St. John’s had as a team during the first 20 minutes of play.
“My teammates were finding me like they always do and I was able to knock down shots,” the sophomore said. “I was trying to be aggressive. Coach wanted me to play with energy on the offensive and defensive end so that’s what I came out doing.”
The first half was heavily dominated by the Hall, as they held St. John’s to just five points for the first ten minutes of the game.
Other than Rodriguez’ 19 and Khadeen Carrington’s eight points, the rest of the Pirates were quiet in regards to scoring. Isaiah Whitehead had a scoreless first half, but put up two boards and dished out two assists.
“Whenever someone is scoring the ball as effectively as Des was you really got to feed them the ball and let them work,” Whitehead said of his Lincoln High School teammate. “I think that Desi really gave us a huge lift in the first half. He had some key deflections and key rebounds that led to Deeno’s mid-range jump shots.”
The momentum the Pirates had in the first half did not carry into the second half. St. John’s opened up on an 8-0 run and didn’t look back, eventually taking the lead at 55-54.
Kassoum Yakwe helped drive the force St. John’s was running on, as he finished the game with 16 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.
Free throws, which the Pirates went 16-26 in the second half, came out to be the deciding factor in the final seconds of the game. Whitehead was able to hit two from the stripe, giving the Pirates the one point edge over the Red Storm and finish the game.
“That was just an old school grind it out. Both teams played extremely hard. We got lucky enough to make free-throws at the end,” head coach Kevin Willard said about the team’s gritty performance.
Things got chippy at the end, as both teams got heated postgame. Derrick Gordon was at the center of it, but said only words were exchanged.
“There was nothing to it,” Willard added.
Other leaders for the Pirates included Gordon with 10 points and Carrington, who finished with 12 points and four rebounds.
The Pirates will be back in action at the Prudential Center on Thursday Feb. 25 when they look to sweep their season series with Providence. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Olivia Mulvihill can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @OliviaMulvihill.