Sunday, January 22, 2017

No place like home for Seton Hall as Pirates defeat St. John's

Angel Delgado and Michael Nzei share a lighter moment as Seton Hall returned to winning ways behind Delgado's 21 points and 20 rebounds in 86-73 victory over St. John's. (Photo by Josh Adams/College Hoops Digest)

By Josh Adams (@joshthescribe)

NEWARK, NJ -- After losing three road games in a six-day stretch, Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard insisted that all his team needed to get back to their winning ways were the comforts of home. 

He was proven right on Sunday afternoon when the Pirates donned their home white uniforms and throttled St. John's, 86-73, behind a 21-point, 20-rebound effort from junior forward Angel Delgado; the Big East's first 20-point, 20-rebound game since 2010 and first in school history since the late Eddie Griffin accomplished the feat in 2000, as the Pirates started strong and never took their foot off the gas in front of 9,801 fans at the Prudential Center.

Seton Hall (13-6, 3-4 Big East) took some time to regroup after a 30-point loss at Villanova Monday, responding with what Willard called the "best three days of practice we've had all season." Clearly, the team focused around getting the ball into Delgado early and exploit the mismatch he had against the  St. John's frontcourt. He feasted early, accumulating eight points and 12 rebounds in the first twelve minutes of the half. The Pirates got off to a fast start behind Delgado and expanded their lead from there, holding the Red Storm without a field goal for six minutes in the middle of the first half. The Seton Hall advantage went into double digits with the combination of a St. John's scoring drought and freshman Myles Powell dropping a quick nine points off the bench. At halftime, the home crowd erupted as Seton Hall had a 46-26 lead in a thoroughly dominating first half of play.

As the fans still mingled in the Prudential Center concourse at halftime, you could sense that St. John's coach Chris Mullin was lighting into his team in the locker room. Whatever he said didn't translate in the early going, as Pirates guard Khadeen Carrington started the second half with an easy breakaway dunk. The only drama would come in the waning moments in the half, as Delgado was one rebound away from a 20-point, 20-rebound day. Willard substituted Delgado late in the second half and the jovial center got the board to complete his record-setting day, the crowd cheering mightily at the accomplishment. Today's win kept the Pirates undefeated at home this season, erasing some of the bitter taste from coming away empty-handed on their recent road trip, while Mullin was not a happy camper in the postgame press conference. 

"I told them at the half that they were playing soft and selfish," said Mullin as St. John's (9-12, 3-5 Big East) was led in the losing effort by 22 points from Marcus LoVett and 19 markers from Bashir Ahmed. "I don't have an explanation why they played this way. Maybe they had some bad eggs with their coffee." Mullin was complimentary about Delgado's performance, however, comparing his game to NBA great Moses Malone.

Willard was confident his team would bounce back today, and wanted his players to get back into the college routine of going to class and then practice. Reflecting on Delgado's monster game, Willard said, "He's our workhorse, he does it every game. We gave him three days off after this road trip and knew he would respond well."

Seton Hall had four other players in double figures aside from Delgado, as Powell (19), Desi Rodriguez (11) and Carrington and Michael Nzei (10 apiece) helped galvanize the winning cause. Rodriguez went to the locker room after a hard spill in the second half, but came back into the game. The Pirates welcome 13th-ranked Butler to the Rock for their next act, entertaining the Bulldogs in an 8:30 p.m. tipoff Wednesday night as St. John's hits the road once more on the same night, visiting Providence at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.

You could sense the relief of coming home and getting a win in the Pirates' locker room. The team seemed to get their swagger back, and that was most evident when a reporter asked Delgado was asked if he kept today's game ball as a souvenir. 

"No," he responded, "because I'm going to do it again."

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