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Seton Hall Squares Off with St. John's Thursday

Sterling Gibbs scored a game-high 20 points in the first meeting with St. John's

Feb. 12, 2014

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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - The Seton Hall men's basketball team will return to the Prudential Center on Thursday where it will look to reclaim its home-court advantage against a local rival in the St. John's Red Storm.

The Pirates (13-11, 4-7) came up short against Marquette on Tuesday, falling 77-66 and moving to 8-6 at home overall and 1-4 in conference play in the process. St. John's (15-9, 5-6) has found its stride after losing its first five BIG EAST games and will enter the contest winners of five of their last six league games - a stretch that began with a narrow 77-76 victory over The Hall on Jan. 23.

Despite the recent Red Storm surge, history suggests a date with St. John's could prove to be the remedy for Seton Hall's recent home woes as the Pirates have won eight-straight games in the series at home dating back to the 1997-98 season.

Tuesday's final result read as the Pirates' second consecutive loss and their third in the last four contests, but it was not for a lack of shooting as the squad connected at a 53.3 percent clip (24-of-45) from the floor; its highest mark in a loss this year. Senior Brian Oliver (Glassboro, N.J.) led four Seton Hall players in double figures, finishing with 15 points on the strength of 5-of-7 shooting from downtown - his sixth game with at least five three pointers this season.

The Hall connected on 10-of-21 (47.6 percent) threes as a team against the Golden Eagles, while limiting Marquette to just 5-of-14 (35.7 percent) from long range. The effort continued a trend that has seen the Pirates emerge as the top perimeter squad in the BIG EAST. Through 11 league games, Seton Hall has knocked down a conference-best 40 percent (92-of-230) of its attempts from beyond the arc and has held the opposition to a league-low 31.6 percent (62-of-196).

The only Pirate to start all 11 conference games, forward Patrik Auda (Brno, Czech Republic) made four of his six shots to total 10 points. Sterling Gibbs (Scotch Plains, N.J.) added 12 points, six assists and three steals and a resurgent Brandon Mobley (Savannah, Ga.) chipped in 12 points and two blocks off the bench. However, The Hall could not overcome large disparities on the boards and from the charity stripe.

Marquette out-rebounded the Pirates 32-to-19 including a 12-to-3 advantage on the offensive end, which led to a 14-2 edge in second chance points. The Golden Eagles also sank 30-of-34 free-throws in the game (88.2 percent), while Seton Hall managed only eight points from the line on 14 attempts.

The Pirates also turned the ball over 17 times on Tuesday and giveaways were an issue when head coach Kevin Willard's team visited Carnesecca Arena in January as in a game that was ultimately decided by one-point, St. John's attempted nine more shots due in large part to 19 Seton Hall turnovers.

The Hall trailed by as many as 17 in the final nine minutes during the first meeting but outscored the Red Storm 28-to-12 down the stretch to nearly come away with the victory. Auda and Fuquan Edwin (Paterson, N.J.) were clutch for Seton Hall during the late comeback attempt; combining for 16 of the team's final 28 points. It was Gibbs and Oliver who finished as the games top two scorers, tallying 20 and 19 points, respectively, while accounting for 27 of the team's 47 second half points.

St. John's prevailed behind a balanced attack that featured three starters in D'Angelo Harrison, JaKarr Sampson and Orlando Sanchez with 16 points apiece and a 22-to-6 advantage in bench points thanks to double-figure scoring efforts from Jamal Branch and Sir'Dominic Pointer.

Aside from the final score, Seton Hall bested the Red Storm in nearly every major statistical category in the first installment of the season series, finishing tied or ahead in every measure except turnovers and blocks. St. John's leads the nation in blocked shots (8.0 bpg), anchored by the top individual shot blocker in the country in Chris Obekpa (3.3 bpg) but their shot-swatting prowess was only a minimal factor in the first meeting as St. John's finished with three blocks with Obekpa accounting for one.  

In fact, The Hall thrived down low, shooting nearly 63 percent (17-of-27, .629) from inside the arc for the game. Establishing a post presence has rarely been a difficulty when a healthy Eugene Teague (Vineland, N.J.) on the court as the senior leads the BIG EAST with a .602 shooting percentage for the season. Teague was playing just his second game since returning from a concussion when the teams last met and finding a way to feed the big man - who is averaging less than six shots per game in conference play - or Aaron Geramipoor (Manchester, England), who has been effective as a reserve, could aid Seton Hall's push to get back in the win column.

The Pirates will continue a three-game home-stand when St. John's visits The Rock on Thursday for the 91st all-time meeting between the two storied programs. Tip-off is slated for 9 p.m. and the action can be seen live nationally on FOX Sports 1. Gary Cohen and Dave Popkin will handle play-by-play and commentary duties for 970 AM (WNYM) and the Pirate Sports Network on SHUPirates.com.