When St. John’s season is over, where will Monday’s game stand in the minds of its players and fans? Will this be remembered as the signature win the Red Storm needed to get their season back on track?
For 40 minutes in the hostile confines of Walsh Gym on Seton Hall’s campus in West Orange, NJ, the Johnnies looked like the team everyone had expected them to be in their 84-63 win over Seton Hall. Sure, there were a few bumps in the road, but the closest the Pirates ever got to the Red Storm was early in the first half when they cut their lead to 11-9 off a shot from Myles Cale.
It was by far St. John’s best win of the season as they dominated both ends of the court. They moved the ball well and their bench provide an extra spark, with head coach Mike Anderson shaking things up a little with his starting lineup.
“That’s the team I’ve been looking for,” Anderson said after the win. “That’s the team. Everything is in and I even told them I’m taking the handcuffs off. You’re not going to hear my voice, just go out there and play. Play hard, play for each other and I thought they did. They went out and they just played basketball.”
The comfort and dominance that St. John’s played with on Monday haven’t been something that has happened too often this season. A much different Red Storm squad took the court in Saturday’s loss at the Garden to the same Seton Hall team while trying to get their fitting in Big East play.
The Red Storm had been 0-6 in games against Quad One opponents going into Monday and they were 2-4 against Big East opponents. That made Monday’s win even more important heading into a small gym with a boisterous opposing crowd.
Instead of being jostled by the unique environment and the jeering fans — most of the 1,400 in attendance were Seton Hall students — the Johnnies stuck to their game plan. More importantly, it seemed that the team responded to Sunday’s schedule of watching film as they tried to motivate one another to turn their season around.
Anderson had the team watch the entirety of Saturday’s loss and the players openly discussed what needed to be worked on.
“We had a lot of voices in that meeting,” Aaron Wheeler said. “Criticizing each other, but that’s what you gotta do. We had to figure out a way to get a road win. Nobody took anything personal, but we were able to figure out things in that film session.”
The Johnnies still have a lot of basketball to go with some tough games ahead on the calendar. They’ll have a few days to rest before facing Villanova on Saturday and then a busy week follows with games just about every other day starting with Tuesday’s game against Providence.
They’ll need to use Monday’s win as a stepping stone.
“It’s something to build on. It’s something we’ve been working on,” Anderson said. “I think our defense has been trending in the right direction and I just thought even the guys that have been starting, they’ve been playing heavy minutes. I thought tonight the different recipe was those guys coming off the bench. … The key is to continue to get guys to give us positive minutes, efficient minutes.”
Anderson later added: “It’s got to be an energy team, it’s got to scrap and claw, and sometimes it may not be pretty to (the media), but it’s pretty to us.”