Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Seton Hall Routs St. John’s to Pull Even in Big East
NEWARK — If Seton Hall is going to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006, it will need to win as many games as possible in the Big East Conference and probably finish at least 9-9.
After a rough stretch in which they faced four ranked teams — Villanova twice and Providence and Xavier once each — the Pirates returned home to face struggling St. John’s on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.
Led by Angel Delgado’s 15 points and 17 rebounds and Isaiah Whitehead’s 19 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, the Pirates handled the Red Storm, 79-60, to improve to 14-6 and 4-4 in the Big East. St. John’s (7-14, 0-8) dropped its 11th straight under first-year coach Chris Mullin.
“We’ve had three really brutal games, and sometimes it’s tough to get guys to realize we can’t look at their record,” head coach Kevin Willard said about his team’s play early on in the game. “They have good players and they’re well-coached.”
After leading 34-26 at the half, Seton Hall stepped it up, building a very comfortable double-digit lead just a few minutes into the second half that they would keep until the final buzzer.
“Sometimes it’s hard to watch film and for your kids to appreciate how hard another team’s playing when they’re struggling,” Willard said. “We came out a little bit too lackadaisical defensively, and I thought once we kind of just settled in and locked in a little bit defensively, I think we made them take some tough shots and we were able to get some easy buckets and get us going.”
Whitehead has been Seton Hall’s top scorer this season, averaging 15.5 points per game, but he struggled towards the beginning of the game. He had 10 at the half.
“Honestly, I’m not going to lie to you, we went out there, we saw the crowd and it was kind of light, real light,” he said. “We really didn’t have that energy that we usually get off of them. There was really heavy traffic so I just tried to keep [the team] together and just try to make plays and keep us in the game until they [the fans] got here.”
Meantime, Delgado was a dominant force on the boards as St. John’s could not box the sophomore big man out.
“I think his eyes kind of lit up halfway through the first half when he realized, you know, he wasn’t getting worn down trying to battle the guys we’ve had to battle the last five games,” Willard said.
“I just came here and play hard, try to make my team look good…” Delgado said about his effort.
The Pirates continue their season on Saturday at Creighton. After getting embarrassed by the Bluejays, 82-67, on Jan. 9, Delgado said the Pirates are ready for the upcoming rematch this weekend.
“We’re going to their house,” he said. “We don’t care if we’re in Alaska right now, we’re just going wherever we’ve got to go and play hard.”
Whitehead got right to the point when talking about the Pirates’ matchup with Creighton.
“We really, absolutely, 100 percent got embarrassed by Creighton,” he said. “So I mean, just seeing them is really going to bring a lot out of us and [we’ll] really try to get that win that I think we deserve.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.