Following a 63-58 Wednesday loss at Providence, the Red Storm (12-7, 1-5 Big East) hosted 18th-ranked Seton Hall (14-4, 6-0) in Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
The Johnnies led by as many as 14 points on the afternoon, and held a 43-30 advantage by halftime following a timely 15-3 run. The Pirates quickly cut into the Red Storm lead in the second half with a 13-3 run of their own, taking their first lead of the game with just under nine minutes to play.
Over the next seven minutes, the two clubs traded leads on eight occasions before the Pirates held off St. John’s for the 82-79 victory.
“It was two teams just going after it,” said Johnnies coach Mike Anderson. “I told our guys that I was proud of the effort. I’m not into moral victories, but at the same time I thought our guys came out and played against a very good opponent in Seton Hall and gave ourselves a chance.”
The Johnnies were torched by Seton Hall senior Myles Powell, who netted 23 of his game-high 29 points in the second half. The sharpshooting guard shot 55 percent from the floor and converted 3-of-5 from three, as well as 4-of-5 from the free throw line, while pulling down six rebounds.
“I saw this guy his freshman year in the NCAA Tournament and he’s gotten better,” said Anderson. “He stepped up when his team needed him to.”
“I’ve been competing against Myles since we were in middle school,” added St. John’s senior Mustapha Heron. “To see somebody who has gone through his struggles off the court to be able to stay focused on the court, I’m proud of him and he’s become a really good player.”
Heron led the St. John’s effort with a team-high 18 points, his highest point tally since December 10. Heron – who shot 6-of-13 against the Pirates – spoke on his team’s recent string of defeats after the game.
“It’s frustrating,” he admitted, “but you’ve got to look at the mistakes you’ve made. We had a couple of turnovers late in the second half and then we missed free throws. That’s what we’ve got to go work on.”
Anderson reiterated that he was proud of the team’s resilience against another ranked club.
“I’m proud that they continued to fight, and I thought we got better,” he said. “I thought we kind of amped it up, and I thought the guys played for one another. I like this team and how they’ve responded in some tough, tough loses.”
LJ Figueroa and Josh Roberts added 16 points each for the Red Storm. Figueroa, who shot 7-of-13 from the floor, also emerged with a career-high seven steals, while Roberts added eight rebounds (six offensive) while shooting 8-of-11 from the floor.
St. John’s was scheduled to face Marquette on Tuesday in Milwaukee, before heading to Chicago for a date with DePaul on Saturday.