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.
St. John’s Downs Seton Hall to Keep NCAA Tournament Hopes Alive
NEW YORK — St. John’s held serve at home and kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
In a back-and-forth game played before an electric crowd that featured Lou Carnesecca and Chris Mullin sitting courtside at Carnesecca Arena, the Red Storm held off Seton Hall, 85-72, for their fourth win in their last five games.
The reeling Pirates (15-12, 5-10 Big East), who were once ranked as high as No. 19 in the nation, lost their sixth straight and ninth in 11 outings. They were playing without suspended guard Sterling Gibbs, who is sitting out two games for striking Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono in the head.
Entering the day, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had St. John’s (18-9, 7-7) as the No. 46 seed in the NCAA Tournament and playing a play-in game against N.C. State.
“We just happy to win this game right now, that’s down the line right now,” St. John’s senior Sir’Dominic Pointer, who went for 22 points and 10 rebounds, said of a potential NCAA bid.
Lunardi later said on ESPN that if St. John’s wins its home games this week against Xavier and Georgetown, “Steve Lavin’s boys are going back to the NCAA Tournament.”
“Every year we’re going to be in the [NCAA] Tournament or we’re going to be in the hunt for the Tournament so we’re doing something we’re supposed to be doing,” Lavin said after the Seton Hall win.
St. John’s probably needs to go at least 2-2 in their remaining four Big East conference games to help solidify an at-large bid. They will also host the Big East Tournament next month at Madison Square Garden.
“They’re an NCAA Tournament team,” Pirates coach Kevin Willard said. “They’re a senior-laden team, they’ve had good wins. They’re definitely an NCAA Tournament team” if they finish with 20 wins and at. 500 in the Big East.
Phil Greene IV had 20 points for the Red Storm, which shot 11-of-26 from the arc and 14-of-19 from the line. Rysheed Jordan added 18 points and D’Angelo Harrison 12.
It was the last game at Carnesecca for the St. John’s seniors. Pointer, Greene IV and Harrison combined to go 31-4 here during their time in Queens.
“We’re just happy to get a win in our last game, we didn’t want to come out with an L,” Greene IV said. “This feels great.”
Lavin praised his seniors.
“Seniors in college basketball have great value,” Lavin said.
Willard also had nothing but praise for the St. John’s seniors, saying they have been through their share of ups and downs.
“You gotta give St. John’s kids a lot of credit,” Willard said.
With the game tied at 59, St. John’s used a 10-0 run to take control of the game, getting five points from senior Jamal Branch and a 3-pointer from Greene to go ahead 69-59.
“At halftime, my teammates told me to be ready and do what I do at practice so I had the confidence feeding off those guys,” Branch said. “They was counting on me to make shots so that’s what I did.”
Another 3-pointer by Jordan made it 77-66 with under three minutes left and pretty much iced the game for the Johnnies.
Isaiah Whitehead scored 19 points on 8-for-24 shooting for Seton Hall and Khadeen Carrington, his fellow Brooklyn native, added 16 points. Whitehead chose Seton Hall over St. John’s and heard some jeers from the crowd for his decision and his first-half shooting numbers (2-for-12 overall and 0-for-7 from deep for four points.)
Angel Delgado, a contender for Big East Rookie of the Year honors, had nine points and 13 rebounds for the Pirates.
“They’re a completely different team without [Jaren] Sina and Sterling Gibbs,” Lavin said of the Pirates. “We wouldn’t have been able to stay in that zone if those two players were in that game because they would’ve bombed us out.
“Any time you don’t have two guys that were playing 37 minutes a game, you’re going to miss guys,” Willard said.
Looking ahead, St. John’s has home games at Madison Square Garden against Xavier and Georgetown before finishing out on the road at Marquette and Villanova.
“We’re already at 18 wins and still building our résumé,” Lavin said
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
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.