(Bashir Ahmed of St. John’s tries to get by Khadeen Carrington of Seton Hall – @StJohnsBball)
St. John’s dropped their second straight to open Big East Conference play, as they fell to Seton Hall, 75-70, in New Jersey on Sunday night.
Seton Hall, ranked 23rd in the nation, improved to 13-2 overall, 2-0 in Big East play, while St. John’s dropped to 10-4 and 0-2 in the Big East.
For the seventh straight game, St. John’s was without sophomore standout Marcus LoVett, and his fellow sophomore star Shamorie Ponds also missed this one due to an injury he suffered Thursday against Providence.
The Red Storm trailed Seton Hall by as many as 15 points in the second half, but they narrowed their deficit to just one in the waning minutes of the contest, but proved unable to completely erase the disadvantage.
For the second time in the team’s last three games, Justin Simon narrowly missed the program’s first triple-double since Ron Artest in 1999. The sophomore from Temecula, Calif., tallied 15 points on 6-15 shooting, a career-high 10 assists, and eight rebounds. Simon became the first St. John’s player since Sir’Dominic pointer on Dec. 7, 2013, against Fordham to record double-digit assists in a game.
Tariq Owens set a pair of career-highs and notched his second double-double of the season with 19 points on a superb 8-12 from the field, including two three-pointers, and 14 rebounds, and also racked up four blocks.
Marvin Clark II poured in 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including a 4-of-7 effort from beyond the arc, while Bashir Ahmed chipped in 16 points (6-14 FG, 3-4 threes) and four boards.
Seton Hall was led by Khadeen Carrington, who had 24 points on 6-13 shooting, including 5-10 from behind the arc, with five rebounds and two assists, and a big three steals.
Desi Rodriguez had 23 points on 8-19 from the field, 4-9 on threes, nine rebounds, three assists, and a steal.
St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin said of what was the difference down the stretch of the game, “[Seton Hall] came out and hit ten 3-pointers in the first half, but we didn’t get discouraged. We played a great second half by maintaining our defensive intensity and worked our way back into the game. They obviously made some big plays, made some free throws when they had to, so congratulations to them I thought they executed. I was just proud of our effort.”
Mullin said of the play of Tariq Owens and Marvin Clark II, “I encouraged them to get out and shoot more. With two of our guards down, we overloaded with our pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop stuff. Games like this are ones that will win ones for us down the road. With players getting extended looks, different roles, and with players stepping up at key times. I thought it was a great effort.”
On turning up the defensive intensity in the second half, Mullin said,
“When all you’re giving up is deep threes, that’s not really bad defense. Sometimes you just have to give credit to good shooting. I wasn’t all that concerned, and I thought that our defense was okay. They were really just hitting a lot of deep shots. Some of the shots were open, but they were deep. In the second half, I thought we did a good job of running them off the three-point line and making them try and score over our length. We went a little zone to conserve our energy with a short rotation, and you tend to give up shots with that. I thought our intensity was good for the entire game, but give the other team credit because they were making shots. We didn’t really change a whole lot in the second half. We didn’t play much zone either. Like I said, I appreciate our effort, and I think that effort is going to win a lot of games for us.”
Mullin said of the feeling of the team following close loss to top-25 team with a battered lineup, “I told our guys pregame that I just wanted them to compete. That’s all I told them is to compete. With a different lineup, we were going to have to figure out our offensive and defensive lineups along the way, but I wasn’t worried about that. I just wanted us to compete and we’ll be fine. We came out and played hard, didn’t get discouraged, and like I said I think that lineup we had is going to play dividends and confidence in our players once we get a full lineup. I think that’s going to win us games down the line.”