Seton Hall rolls past St. John's as Pirates close in on Big East title
There are only a handful of basketball games left in the regular season for Myles Powell and Seton Hall before the grand stage of March Madness begins.
But Powell isn't looking ahead to the Big East Tournament, the NCAA Tournament or a potential run at the Final Four.
Instead, the Trenton native wants to focus on locking down Seton Hall's first Big East regular-season title since the 1992-93 season.
With their 81-65 victory over St. John's on Sunday before 14,648 at Prudential Center, the No. 16 Pirates maintained their one-game lead atop the Big East with three games remaining. Creighton and Villanova entered the day tied for second place, with the No. 15 Bluejays set to host No. 21 Butler at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Seton Hall (20-7, 12-3 Big East) has now won two in a row after dropping two straight to Creighton and Providence, triggering coach Kevin Willard to say several players had "bad attitudes." After meeting three times following the Providence loss, the Pirates seem to have righted the ship and once again look like a team that could go deep during March Madness.
"We're not really looking past any game," Powell told NJ Advance Media ahead of the St. John's game. "We're still trying to win the conference championship, trying to do that for the first time in program history in almost 20 years, 25 years, so I'm not even honestly looking past March.
"We have a good St. John's team coming in, then we go to Marquette on Markus Howard's Senior Night so we still have one game ahead of everybody and we're just trying to keep that lead....This conference is so tough, you never know what you're going to get every night."
Seton Hall has now won nine of its last 12 against St. John's and six straight at Prudential Center.
The Pirates raced out to leads of 13-4, 20-6 and 28-13 on the struggling Johnnies (14-13, 3-11), who have now lost two straight and and 5-of-6.
By the half, Seton Hall led 36-22 behind Sandro Mamukelashvili's 10 points and six rebounds. St. John's shot 24 percent in the first half.
St. John's got to within 36-29 early in the second half, but the Pirates went on a 19-10 spurt - capped by a feed from Tyrese Samuel to Romaro Gill for a dunk - that made it 55-39.
By the time Powell fed Mamukelashvili for an alley-oop dunk to make it 68-52, some fans began heading to the exits.
Powell, a contender for various National Player of the Year awards, finished with 18 points, five rebounds and four assists, including several nice feeds for alley-oop dunks.
"He's a phenomenal player," St. John's coach Anderson said last week of Powell. "He's that guy, and he wants to be that guy. He is the target but he's willing to get other guys involved.
"I think Myles Powell is a dynamite player, plays with the attitude that gotta have. When you have one of the better players you play through it, but I just think he plays with a lot of confidence."
One game after his buzzer-beating basket beat Butler, Mamukelashvili finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Gill had 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Jared Rhoden scored 14 points with four boards.
L.J. Figueroa scored 19 for the Red Storm and Julian Champagnie had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Pirates are now off until Saturday when they travel to No. 19 Marquette.
After that they come home to face Villanova on Senior Night on March 4 in what will be last game ever at Prudential Center for Powell and fellow seniors Quincy McKnight and Romaro Gill.
The Pirates conclude the regular season at Creighton on March 7 before the Big East Tournament runs March 11-14 at Madison Square Garden.
Selection Sunday is March 15 and the Pirates are expected to be a top seed.
Entering Sunday, ESPN's Joe Lunardi had the Pirates as a 2 seed, while Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News put them as a 4 seed.SANOGO HEADLINES RECRUITS
Seton Hall hosted several key recruits for the game including Adama Sanogo, the 6-10 power forward from The Patrick School who is a priority recruit for the Pirates.
Sanogo is planning to take visits in the coming weeks to Seton Hall, UConn and Nebraska depending on his schedule with the Celtics.
Also on hand were Jahari Long, the 2020 point guard from Texas who has signed with the Pirates; 2021 guard Jordan Riley of Brentwood (N.Y.); and 2021 South Shore guard Zaire Wells.
Adam Zagoria is a freelance reporter who covers Seton Hall and NJ college basketball for NJ Advance Media.
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