Seton Hall, St. John’s set to collide in Big East tussle

NEWARK, N.J. — St. John’s is expected to have Shamorie Ponds back when it faces No. 23 Seton Hall on Sunday at the Prudential Center.

The Red Storm’s leading scorer suffered a knee injury late in the first half of a 94-72 loss to Providence in the Big East Conference opener on Thursday. Ponds averages 20 points for St. John’s (10-3, 0-1) and ranks in the top five in the conference in scoring, assists and steals.

The Red Storm trailed by just one point at the half against Providence, but with Ponds on the bench were outscored 53-32 in the second half.

“Even in wins. I say it all the time and people think I’m speaking in clichés, but it’s not a cliché,” said St. John’s coach Chris Mullin. “If you live your life that way, it’s not a cliché.

“If we had won, we would have been looking at the film and moving onto Seton Hall anyway, so that’s what we’ll do. Obviously, when you win you sleep better, food tastes a little better, but being accountable for these things is important for the development of your team.

“We are not going to win every game, and how you handle it is as important when you lose as when you win. When you win, it kind of takes care of itself, but when you lose, it’s important how you handle the accountability of it and what you do the next time out.”

The Red Storm leads the series, 59-38. Seton Hall (12-2, 1-0) has claimed three of the last four matches.

The Pirates erased a 13-point deficit against No. 25 Creighton on Thursday, and held the Bluejays scoreless over the final 3:32 to come away with a 90-84 victory. Over the final 20 minutes this season, Seton Hall is shooting 48.2 percent while holding opponents to 39.0 percent shooting from the field.

One of the main reasons the Pirates have been able to create separation during the second half this season has been their 3-point field goal defense. Opponents are shooting just 27.0 percent (41-for-152) from long range in the second half.

Seton Hall was once again powered by their senior starters against Creighton, as Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado combined for 59 points. Rodriguez led the way with 23 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the floor. Carrington finished with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Delgado notched his 10th double-double of the season and 60th of his career with 18 points, 14 rebounds.

“We’re coming for everybody’s head right now,” said Delgado. “I’m telling you right now — we’re not giving up; there could be one second left and we’re down 10. That’s how it is in this league. If you sleep, they eat you.”

Sunday marks the last game of a four-game homestand for the Pirates. They defeated Wagner on Dec. 20, Manhattan on Dec. 23, and Creighton on Dec. 28. After Sunday the Pirates play at Butler and Marquette.

“We’re going to have to go on the road and win some road games too, so it’s one game at a time,” said Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard. “I didn’t tell them that we have to win this one (Creighton), because we were 3-6 last year and I didn’t think we had to win the next game.

“That’s just the way the schedule was. You’ve just gotta focus on who you’re playing, and that’s gotta be your only focus in this league.”