Khadeen Carrington's 22 points, capped off by fast-break dunk in final seconds of overtime, lifted Seton Hall past St. John's and firmly into NCAA Tournament field. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
NEW YORK -- Considering the odyssey Seton Hall endured just to get to Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon, perhaps it was only fitting that the Pirates needed five extra minutes to secure one of their most important victories of the season.
Less than 48 hours removed from having to complete a suspended game at Providence on the Friars' campus Thursday afternoon after the floor at the Dunkin' Donuts Center was deemed unsafe, and without Desi Rodriguez after the senior sprained his ankle in the first half of the Providence game Wednesday evening, Seton Hall clinched its third straight 20-win season and all but guaranteed themselves an at-large spot in next month's NCAA Tournament, defeating St. John's by the final score of 81-74, using an 11-4 run to dominate the overtime period.
In a back-and-forth battle that neither side led by more than five points until Khadeen Carrington scored the last of his 22 points on a breakaway dunk in the final seconds of overtime, Seton Hall (20-9, 9-7 Big East) was able to use its depth, even without Rodriguez, to wear down a six-man St. John's rotation that was led by 25 points from Shamorie Ponds, a deciding factor behind the Pirates winning their third consecutive game to erase any lingering doubts after dropping four in a row to begin February.
Up next for Seton Hall is a much-anticipated rematch with Villanova Wednesday night at the Prudential Center, a contest where Angel Delgado already predicted the Pirates would execute better in the wake of their loss to the Wildcats three weeks ago in Philadelphia. Currently the No. 3 seed in the Big East Tournament if the season ended today, momentum is once again coming back to South Orange, with even more to be gained from the final stretch of the regular season as we offer our traditional handful of takeaways from Saturday's midtown Manhattan matinee:
1) Deep Impact
Without Rodriguez and given the fact that Seton Hall's bench was in need of a breakthrough to match some of their earlier success in the non-conference season, Kevin Willard handled this game extremely well, all things considered. Largely an eight-man rotation Saturday, not counting the brief action seen by Jordan Walker and Eron Gordon, the Pirates' X-factor on this day was one hardly anyone could have envisioned, as walk-on Philip Flory provided arguably the biggest lift for the Pirates, logging 17 minutes.
2) Myles and Myles
Making his first career start Saturday in place of Rodriguez, Myles Cale did not disappoint, scoring 10 points to offset three first-half fouls and offer a positive outing on the whole. Sophomore Myles Powell made more of an impact off the ball than Pirate fans are accustomed to seeing, supplementing his 18 points with eight rebounds and six assists to outduel Justin Simon of St. John's, whose Swiss Army knife capabilities were neutralized by the Pirate defense, held to just eight points, five assists and four rebounds.
3) Sa-no-go for Shamorie Ponds.
The talented sophomore still managed to put 25 points on the board, but had to take 22 shots to get there, all the while fighting off Ismael Sanogo and his suffocating defense as Willard switched the stalwart onto Ponds to keep Angel Delgado hidden in the pick-and-roll against a smaller Red Storm lineup.
"We tried to hide the big fella a little bit because they went small, and I think they really did a good job of kind of switching," said Willard. "We moved Angel around so they couldn't just get Angel in a pick-and-roll, which is tough when they're that small, and obviously Ish is; as we think, one of the best defenders in the country and Shamorie's one of the best guards, so it was a good matchup."
4) Homeward Bound
Not only does Seton Hall return to Newark Wednesday night, they were able to win a quasi-home game today in front of 18,840 patrons at the Garden, many of whom were clad in St. John's red. Still, that did not stop the Pirates from recapturing the magic at the World's Most Famous Arena, a success that has translated into an 8-3 record for this year's senior class inside the home of the New York Knicks, and forebodes a bright future heading into March.
"I think I learned how deep we can go," Carrington said in a revelatory moment for Seton Hall. "Everybody played absolutely well today, and I just talked to the guys -- I said everybody's got to step up since Desi's sitting out -- and I think everybody did a great job. Phil came in and gave us great minutes, Myles Cale played terrific, I stepped my game up. Myles (Powell) didn't shoot it well, but he made some big plays down the stretch, and we got the big fella right here (Delgado), so I'm proud of my team."
"I definitely think we regained it," he added with regard to the Pirates' swagger. "I don't think I was really worried when we went on that little (losing) streak, because every team hits walls during the season. It just happened that ours came late."
5) "I'm a warrior."
Delgado opened the game on a roll, scoring the first six Seton Hall points before letting the game come back to him in the second half and in overtime, ending the day with 14 points and 13 rebounds for his 20th double-double of the season, and 70th of his career. There was also a brief scary moment in which the senior center, who has battled through a dislocated kneecap, was inadvertently elbowed by Sanogo late in the second half, but the All-America candidate shook it off and did what he does best.
"I'm a warrior," Delgado declared. "I'm always going to come right back. I'm not letting my team down right now just because something hurts. If something hurts, it's gotta go away at some point, so I'm always there. I'm always ready to play."