St. John’s must bounce back quick from Seton Hall beatdown as things don’t get easier
This had all the fixings of old-school Big East combat, a genuine rock fight at The Rock. Daniss Jenkins knocked down a long 3-point shot with 4 minutes and 33 seconds left in the first half, and the modest but audible red-clad portion of the gathering at Prudential Center allowed themselves a brief spasm of glee.
It was St. Johns 24, Seton Hall 24. Three days after enduring a gut-crunching last-minute miss at Creighton, the Johnnies and their traveling faithful were bracing themselves for another two hours of angst and stress and torment and down-to-the-wire, down-to-the-quick suffering …
And then they werent.
It would be close to 37 minutes in actual time before the Johnnies would score again. It was exactly 8 / minutes in game time before that would happen, and by then the Pirates had smothered the Johnnies in a gross of Jolly Roger flags, theyd turned The Rock into a rollicking fun house, theyd rattled off 28 unanswered points.
And theyd made the latest in a series of compelling arguments that, for now, for the moment, maybe for the duration of this season, they are the princes of college hoops in greater New York. Maybe St. Johns would like to rebut that now, because the Johnnies never came close to doing it Tuesday night.
3 Al-Amir Dawes (2) chases St. John’s Red Storm guard Daniss Jenkins (5) during the second half on Tuesday. Robert Sabo for NY PostThe final was 80-65, which only vaguely represents just how thorough a bludgeoning this was, closer than it shouldve been only because Seton Hall enjoyed a 20-minute second-half victory lap, and when that happens human nature takes over. It was a glorious night for the Jersey half of this rivalry, a grim one for the Queens half.
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We were supposed to come out with a lot more passion and hunger and toughness, Jenkins said when the piling on was complete. We didnt step up to the challenge.
For St. Johns, there is a sudden and harsh realization that ascending to the upper precincts of the Big East is one thing, and maintaining a place in that rarefied air is something else. One minute youre 30 seconds away from taking out Creighton on its home court, seizing a 5-1 record and strengthening a grip on first place; the next youre trying to get the license plate of the truck that left you flat on the side of the road, tire marks all over your back.
We missed Coach tonight, no doubt, said Steve Masiello, given a rude welcome in his debut filling in for the ailing Rick Pitino. Adversities happen every day. You have to respond to adversity. We have to respond better. We have to own that.
We didnt show what we were capable of, he said.
No, Pitino wasnt there, felled by COVD, and yes: his absence leaves a void. Right now this is a program defined by his personality no matter how well the players working under his hand execute his vision.
3Steve Masiello filled in for Rick Pitino on Tuesday. Robert Sabo for NY PostBut he would also be the first person to tell you: the Johnnies should be far enough along to survive outside the cocoon. They should be far enough along to, at the very least, be competitive with a fun and feisty Seton Hall team that is clearly a force and not a fluke. This was a huge statement for Shaheen Holloways crew, and a feel-good slice of redemption for Dylan Addae-Wusu, one of many ex-Johnnies scattered and thriving across the sport.
But it was every bit the discouraging white flag by Pitinos team, too. It failed to compete. In the Pitino canon of basketball jurisprudence thats a felony, not a misdemeanor, no matter whos sitting in the big chair on the sideline.
It gets no easier for the Johnnies. Marquette is next, high noon Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Marquette was last years Hall, picked ninth at the start of the season, cutting down nets by the end of it. Then comes Villanova, and if the Wildcats are an insistent puzzle theyll also be a little salty, seeking revenge.
3Seton Hall Pirates guard Dylan Addae-Wusu (0) takes a shot during the second half on Tuesday. Robert Sabo for NY PostThe schedule makers did the Johnnies no favors keeping them away from the leagues get-right elixirs, DePaul and Georgetown, until the back nine of the season. Still, the Big East as a basketball whack-a-mole is no news bulletin; though a night like this one does make you take stock, take a step back, and ponder.
It can be an aberration. It should be an aberration. At 24-24 the teams looked as they should: equally matched, perfect foils for each other. The Johnnies and Pirates have rarely been near each others class, and have even more seldom been good at the same time. They should be this year. They werent Tuesday.
It could be the kind of moment, two months from now, that the Johnnies can jubilantly recall if they learn from this, grow from this, shrug it aside, bounce back. Nobody ever said this was supposed to be anything other than a scuffle, after all, even if that was easy to forget at 4-1 Saturday afternoon, 30 seconds away from 5-1, a universe away from where they were in Newark.
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