March 1, 2008
QUEENS, N.Y. - How many ways and how many times can St. John's say it in one week - "Nothing's over yet." Overcoming a deficit as large as 13 points in the first half and rallying from another 10-point disadvantage in the second stanza, Anthony Mason Jr. gave St. John's teammate Eugene Lawrence and a crowd of 5,537 a 65-62 victory over local BIG EAST rival Seton Hall and a Senior Night '08 to remember.
Mason Jr., who donned a white headband in the first half as a tribute to Lawrence's final home game on campus in Carnesecca Arena, tossed the headgear aside for the second half and started tossing in 3-pointers. The Red Storm's leading scorer made 5-of-5 shots from long distance in the final stanza - including a trey with two seconds left in regulation that gave St. John's its final lead - en route to a game-high 24-point performance. Larry Wright and Justin Burrell contributed 12 points apiece and D.J. Kennedy added 10 as the Red Storm built major momentum headed into its last two games, where St. John's postseason destiny will be determined.
"The crowd really got into the game and helped us when we needed it defensively. That is one of the reasons why when we do play here, this is a tough spot," said STJ head coach Norm Roberts. "When those people feel like they are crawling right up your uniform, it's tough. It's tough to play here. Our crowd and our fans did a great job of coming out and making it a tough atmosphere for Seton Hall. It gave us energy when we needed it."
Bolstered by a 13-of-25 (52.0 percent) shooting performance, Seton Hall (17-12, 7-9 BIG EAST) took a 32-24 halftime lead into the locker room. With the score tied 14-14 with 8:48 to play in the opening stanza, the Pirates used four 3-pointers (including two by SHU's Jamar Nutter) to spark an 18-5 run over the next 5:51 to take control, 32-19. A St. John's 3-pointer by Kennedy and a steal and feed to fellow freshman Paris Horne for a last-second layup cut the Pirate lead down to eight at the break.
St. John's (11-17, 5-11 BIG EAST) cranked up the heat after intermission, storming out of the gates to score 10 of the second period's first 12 points, and tied the contest at 34-34 on a fast break finish by Kennedy. Moments later, a 3-pointer by Nutter and a pair of free throws by John Garcia (14 points apiece) had given the Pirates a temporary 39-36 lead, when Mason Jr. connected on a highly improbable turnaround 3-pointer - the first of his five in the second half - with no time on the shot clock to tie it at 39-39 with 10:38 to play.
Both teams traded buckets over the next two minutes, before Seton Hall seemingly took control once again, using a 13-2 spurt to make it 55-45 with 4:51 to play. But St. John's made sure the contest was far from over, as Mason Jr. nailed a 3 off a feed from Lawrence (six assists), and treys by Wright and Mason Jr. sandwiched a SHU lay-up by Eugene Harvey (five points) to draw the Red Storm within two at 59-57 with 1:49 to go.
After a pair of SHU misses, Wright drilled another long 3 off a pass from Mason Jr. to give the Red Storm a 60-59 lead with 1:09 remaining, and Burrell splashed two free throws for a three-point advantage with 20 seconds to play. A Nutter 3-pointer at the 10-second mark tied the game at 62 and the Red Storm used its last timeout. On the ensuing press break, speedy STJ freshman Malik Boothe raced up the court and drew the defense into the lane, before tossing a pass to Mason Jr. on the left wing for the game-deciding connection from long-distance. To add to the dramatics, a three-quarter court banked-in 3 by Seton Hall rookie Jeremy Hazell (nine points) was disallowed because of a time-out called by the SHU bench.
With the regular season winding down and each contest crucial to the Red Storm's chances of a return trip to the BIG EAST Championship Tournament, St. John's heads to No. 17/17 Notre Dame on Wednesday, March 5. The 7:30 p.m. contest at the Joyce Center will air on FOX Sports New York.