Prudential Center—-This is the game that Seton Hall seems to get up for. But any game in the Big East is big. Both teams were playing their first Big East Conference game of the season.
Sandro Mamukelashvili had a career-high 32 points as Seton Hall beat St. John’s 77-68 on Friday at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
“We had no answer for Sandro, even as we made runs in the second half,” coach Mike Anderson said after St. John’s lost to Seton Hall for the ninth time in 11 tries and the 15th time in 16 games on the road and dropped its league opener for the fourth straight season. “He played like a senior is supposed to, a guy that has those kinds of talents, and they do a good job of utilizing him.”
The Johnnies who started slow had a huge problem shooting over the Hall’s length were outscored 12-6 over the final 3:09 of the contest. The Red Storm tried to mix it up against Sandro but nothing worked against the big guy.
The Pirates’ size proved to be too much in the first half. Seton Hall was physically imposing their will on the Johnnies and wore St. John’s down on the blocks.
After taking a 35-30 lead into the half, Seton Hall scored the first six points of the second half, extending their lead to 11 and then by 12 points. St. John’s made several mini-runs, getting as close as three at one point. But Seton Hall found Mamukelashvili, he even hit a big jump shot, finish off a drive or found an open teammate.
The Johnnies managed just 12 fast-break points, had fewer points off turnovers (13) than Seton Hall (14) and shot 4-of-20 from beyond the arc.
“Getting them to play in the half-court is kind of your goal against them because they’re so good in transition,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “They’re so good at creating defensive live-ball turnovers. The pace, I think, really helped us.”
Sophomore Julian Champagnie played well for St. John’s scoring 24 points and with six rebounds, and Rasheem Dunn provided a lift off the bench in his first game back after a concussion with 10 points. But the rest of the Johnnies only made 14-of-37 shots from the field. As a whole, St. John’s got to the free throw line only 10 times, compared to 28 for Seton Hall.
“It feels amazing just being out there and playing like that, but I could never do any of this without my teammates and my coaches,” Sandro Mamukelashvili said. “They’ve invested so much in me these past three years, just building me up for moments like this.”
After Dunn’s steal and layup with 9:10 left to play in the game, St. John’s was down just three. Sandro scored with a runner and was fouled. He hit the free throw. The next time downcourt, he scored on a layup and later found Jared Rhoden for a dunk to extend the lead back to eight points.
“The game came down to the free-throw line,” he said. When asked if he didn’t think the officiating was even, Anderson declined to place any blame on the officials.
The Red Storm got within within a single possession, and was down three points following two Champagnie free throws with 3:09 to go on the clock, but never got closer. Vince Cole missed a 3-pointer and Takal Molson scored the game’s next four points for Seton Hall.
Takal Molson had 14 points for Seton Hall (4-3, 1-0 Big East Conference). Myles Cale chipped in 10 points. Jared Rhoden had nine rebounds.
“First game of conference play, we always talk about a sense of urgency, and you could see it with Seton Hall tonight,” Mike Anderson said.