Another day, another come from behind victory for Seton Hall.
Three days after turning in its cleanest performance of the season against Butler, it looked like the turnover bug was going to get the best of Seton Hall against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. The Pirates turned the ball over 15 times in the first half and trailed 43-30 at halftime.
In typical Seton Hall fashion, it refused to go away without a fight. The Pirates put their first-half turnover issues behind them and took advantage of clutch play from Myles Powell to pull out an 82-79 win.
“When we come into this building, it’s a special place for us,” Powell said. “We feel like this is our second home as well. The Pirates, if you know us, we love coming to The Garden and love putting on good games here.”
Powell put Seton Hall up 75-73 with an and-one with 1:37 remaining. St. John’s tied the score at 75 a couple of seconds later, but Quincy McKnight went 1-2 at the free-throw line to give the Pirates a 76-75 lead before Powell iced the game with a finish at the rim with 28 seconds remaining to give Seton Hall a lead it would not relinquish for the remainder of the action.
The win is Seton Hall’s eighth in a row and sixth consecutive win in Big East play.
Seton Hall came out of halftime on fire and used that momentum to outscore St. John’s 52-36 in the second half. Powell led the Pirates with 23 second-half points and finished with 29 He also registered his 2,000th career point with a fast-break layup in the opening minutes of the second half. Myles Cale chipped in eight second-half points and finished with 12. Romaro Gill also registered a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
“This is what I came back for my senior year for,” Powell said. “The great group of teammates I have and the great coaching staff I have. Without them, I’m nothing. I’m blessed to be in this situation and thankful for everything that has been coming my way. We’re going to continue to play Seton Hall basketball and keep getting wins because that’s all that matters at this point.”
St. John’s had Seton Hall’s number for the first 20 minutes, forcing the Pirates into 15 first-half turnovers. Quincy McKnight (five), Anthony Nelson (four) and Gill (two) combined for 11 of the 15. The Red Storm registered 11 steals in the half, forcing Seton Hall into uncomfortable spots with its press defense. As St. John’s made Seton Hall work to get into its offensive sets, the Pirates struggled, shooting only 35% from the field.
The Pirates turned the tide in the turnover department in the second half, giving away the rock only four times. As a result, Seton Hall’s offensive sets reverted to normalcy and the Pirates shot 53% from the field and 40% from deep in the half.
“I thought the biggest thing we adjusted on, I was going to either lose by 30 or press them right back,” coach Kevin Willard said. “It got them on their heels a little bit. It gave us the chance to turn them over and get some easy buckets. I thought that loosened us up a little bit.”
“The yelling at halftime helped too,” Powell chimed in. “He forgot to mention that.”
St. John’s defensive prowess was evident from the opening tip, as it forced Seton Hall to miss six of its first eight shots before the under-16 timeout. By the under-12, the Red Storm held a 14-9 lead as the Pirates continued their struggles shooting the ball.
Seton Hall cut St. John’s lead to 32-28 following a stretch of clean play, but the turnover issues returned, and the Red Storm ripped off a 13-2 run to take a 43-30 lead into halftime.
Despite the first-half woes that put Seton Hall in an early hole, the Pirates came out of the locker room a rejuvenated team. Seton Hall opened the second half on a 14-2 run to cut St. John’s lead to 51-49, sending the Pirates fans in attendance into a frenzy.
“We went back to the locker room and regrouped,” Gill said. “We knew we made a lot of mistakes in the first half. We went to the locker room, regrouped and came back out with a different mindset.”
The two teams traded buckets for a stretch until Powell drained an off-balance three from the top of the key, giving Seton Hall its first lead of the afternoon at 61-58. LJ Figueroa answered with a three at the other end, but Powell came right back with another triple to give the Pirates a 64-61 advantage at the under-eight timeout.
Powell’s three-point barrage was far from enough to put a resilient St. John’s squad away, though. The Red Storm re-took the lead on two Mustapha Heron free throws with 5:29 remaining to make it 67-66. Powell hit two free throws of his own on Seton Hall’s ensuing possession to put the Pirates back out in front by one, but a goaltending call on a Rasheem Dunn layup immediately put the Red Storm in possession of a one-point lead heading into the under-four timeout.
Powell then took over, registering bucket after bucket to carry Seton Hall to its 14th win of the season. St. John’s cut the lead to 78-77 with a layup with 20.9 seconds remaining and Cale hit two free throws to make it 80-77, but Marcellus Earlington converted a post-hook to cut the Pirates’ lead to one with 8.5 left. McKnight then stepped up to the line to ice the game, as St. John’s three-point attempt at the buzzer fell short of the rim.
“We’re tough,” McKnight said. “Four road wins now. Eight wins in a row. We’re showing everybody that we’re tough. We went to Hinkle, were down 10 at halftime and we came back in the second half. Down 13 today at half, came back again. We show you guys that we’re going to fight every game.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.