Seton Hall and St. John's contest opening tip of Big East season. (Photo by Karen Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The Big East opener between two metropolitan area teams that know each other all too well.
There have been some notable battles in the past between the two. Tonight, another installment in this series. In typical Big East fashion, it came down to crunch time. Seton Hall had enough and made the plays the final minute, earning a 64-59 victory over St. John's at Walsh Gymnasium. Both teams are now 8-4.
First five possessions:
St. John’s: Field goal, field goal, transition, free throw, turnover
Seton Hall: Missed FG, missed FG, field goal, free throws, field goal
Seton Hall led 6-5 at the 7:43 mark. Given the time elapsed after five possessions for both teams, the pace was decidedly uptempo.
First half observations:
You obviously want to limit turnovers. In Seton Hall’s case, this was an absolute necessity. St. John’s transforms those turnovers off steals into transition runouts. Not only are you allowing two points, but the situation can be demoralizing.
Seton Hall was able to get opportunities close in with their bigs. Several of those chances went for naught. Against a team like St. John’s, you want to capitalize and not squander those opportunities.
Seton Hall is looking to run. St. John’s is aware of this, and doing a good job converting from offense
to transition defense.
Seton Hall fans cringe whenever Jade Walker makes a play. The Red Storm senior hails from Maplewood, New Jersey, about a mile from the Seton Hall campus.
The first four minutes of the second half are always big, even more so here. Seton Hall had a six-point lead late in the half and could not increase it. St. John’s finished strong, and at the intermission, the score was tied at 31. Neither team won those first four minutes, at least not from a point standpoint. At the six-minute mark of the third quarter, the score was tied at 39. For Seton Hall, JaQuan Jackson had all three of the Pirate field goals during those opening minutes.
While the first four of both halves are important,on this night, the last four decided the winner. Seton Hall led 55-52 with four minutes to go. The Pirates start to come unglued against the St. John’s pressure. The lead is lost, then quickly regained. Making plays is often referred to on the offensive end, and the Hall made a big one defensively. After a missed free throw by Kaela Hilaire, the Red Storm trailed by three with eight seconds left. Thoughts centered on fouling or defending the three. The Hall’s LaTecia Smith settled it with a huge interception of a Red Storm pass near midcourt. Smith was fouled, and canned both free throws to seal the verdict.
Possessions: St. John’s 77, Seton Hall 75
Offensive efficiency: St. John’s 77, Seton Hall 85
eFG%: St. John’s 37, Seton Hall 47
Free Throw Rate: St. John’s 45, Seton Hall 29
Offensive Rebound%: St. John’s 29, Seton Hall 46
Turnover Rate: St. John’s 30, Seton Hall 35
Leading scorers and EF:
St. John’s- Jade Walker 21 points, EF 18
Seton Hall- JaQuan Jackson 18 points, EF 18
What St. John’s did well: Get to the line. Red Storm shot 20-of-24 in the free throw department. The ability to draw fouls and convert from the charity stripe helped offset a cold night of shooting from the floor.
What Seton Hall did well: Rebound and dictate tempo. The Pirates owned the offensive rebounding percentage and led 17-10 in offensive boards. Seton Hall imposed their will to force a faster tempo, decidedly to their liking.
Walker, beside leading all scorers with 21 points, also had the dubious distinction of leading in turnovers with seven. Smith paced Seton Hall with six. Both teams had three players in double figures. Seton Hall owned a 15-3 edge in bench points, and also led with points in the paint, 34-18.
Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella was especially pleased with holding St. John’s to 1-of-15 shooting from three. Hall shot 6-of-15. The competitiveness of this meeting was reflected in 11 lead changes and 11 ties in a game neither team led by more than seven points.
“The game favored Seton Hall from a tempo standpoint. They did a good job controlling tempo, that was conducive to winning. We did a bad job on the glass and we both turned it over to cancel each other out. We did not execute down the stretch. We struggled shooting and I was disappointed the way we played, but Seton Hall had a lot to do with that. We got hesitant and did not attack the gaps of their zone. At times we found Jade, other times we did not look for her. Seton Hall mixed it up well with man-to-man, 2-3 and 1-3-1 looks. We were not able to press very early because we had trouble scoring to set up the press. I think this league is so much better than people give it credit for. It is not like before with five teams in the top 20, but top to bottom, it is a very tough league and there really are no nights off. You have to be ready to play. We will learn from this, then move on.” - St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella
“It was an intense game. We knew St. John’s would have the intensity, but so did we. It was a great atmosphere out there with our fans. In the end, this came down to who had more heart.” -Seton Hall sophomore guard LaTecia Smith
“Proud of our girls. We had adversity, but showed a lot of poise. We need to work on the press. We showed poise when JaQuan fouled out late. We didn’t get down or hang our heads. We came back. We played with energy. A lot of our kids never experienced the Big East, so I was worried if the energy would be there, and it was. St. John’s has a lot of kids with Big East experience. Give our kids credit. A few times, we threw the ball away, but kept our poise. Turnovers, we need to work on. The past few years, we had pro guards. We didn’t get pressed. That is not to criticize our guards, but we will see pressure. I have to do a better job of putting them in positions to succeed against pressure. Jade Walker is from the area and always comes back to haunt us. She came in averaging 23 minutes, but tonight played 37. Welcome to the Big East.” - Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella