NEW YORK -- Some quick thoughts on St. John's 77-76 win over Seton Hall on Thursday at Carnesecca Arena.
What it means: St. John's has finally cracked the win column in conference play.
It took six games, nearly until the end of January. And the Red Storm very nearly gave this one away (see below). But they have a Big East win on their résumé, at last. Now the question is, can they build on it, with two road games to close the month?
St. John's improves to 11-8 overall, 1-5 in the Big East. Seton Hall falls to 11-8, 2-4 in the Big East.
The turning point: St. John's fell behind early, which is typical. A week ago here at Carnesecca, the Red Storm trailed Providence 14-2. Tonight, Seton Hall took an early 13-3 lead. But the Red Storm woke up pretty quickly. They took their first lead, 19-18, on a Jamal Branch layup with 10:42 remaining in the first half, and led 35-29 at intermission. Orlando Sanchez scored 11 first-half points, and Seton Hall committed 15 first-half turnovers.
St. John's broke open the game midway through the second half. Seton Hall was still within three, 50-47, when the Red Storm went on a 13-0 run, spearheaded by Branch and Jakarr Sampson, who scored all 13 points (seven and six, respectively). The Red Storm led by as many as 17, but the Pirates had the ball twice in the final 30 seconds trailing by only three -- St. John's fouled on each possession before Seton Hall shot a 3-pointer. With St. John's leading 77-76 with 4.3 seconds left, following a Red Storm turnover, Seton Hall had to go the length of the floor. Fuquan Edwin took the inbounds pass, dribbled to near half court, but then had the ball poked away by Sir'Dominic Pointer. Game over.
Star watch: Five players were in double figures for St. John's. Sanchez, Sampson and Harrison scored 16 points apiece.
Gibbs had a game-high 20 points for Seton Hall. Brian Oliver scored 19.
Number crunch: Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the field. St. John's had eight fewer turnovers, and nine more field goal attempts (four more makes).
What's next: St. John's plays at Butler, Saturday at 4 p.m. (and then at Creighton on Tuesday). Seton Hall hosts DePaul, Saturday at 6 p.m.