Seton Hall blows 19-point lead, still beats St. John's 62-61

NEW YORK -- Isaiah Whitehead capped one of the worst games of his career by grabbing a huge rebound and then making two free throws with 5.6 seconds to play.

His free throws gave Seton Hall a 62-61 victory over St. John's on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

Whitehead, one of the Big East's top players, was 1 of 12 from the field, including missing all five 3-point attempts, but he made the two free throws -- he finished 8 of 10 from the line -- that gave the Pirates (19-7, 9-5) their sixth win in the past seven games.

The 6-foot-4 sophomore from Brooklyn, New York, got the rebound of a missed free throw with 10 seconds and then was placed in the role of hero or goat.

`'My first reaction was thank God that I pulled it down," he said of the rebound. "... I got the rebound and then I heard the whistle and I just really had to focus in (on the free throws). ... I really don't know how I got it."

Kassoum Yakwe had career highs of 16 points and 15 rebounds for the Red Storm (8-20, 1-14), who rallied from a 19-point deficit to take a late lead as they tried for a second straight win after losing 16 in a row.

"In the second half we played well," St. John's coach Chris Mullin said. "In the first half we were sleepwalking."

After the game, there was some light pushing as the teams were lining up to shake hands on the court.

"Two teams that battled and played really hard," Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. "There was nothing to it. Sometimes that happens. ... Sometimes the handshake probably isn't the greatest idea."

Willard was worried about this game despite St. John's recent troubles.

" I thought it was going to be a tough game," Willard said. "My New York kids coming back to the Garden and I, watching all the film, watching all the games, thought St. John's was playing harder than anybody else in the conference. This was just an old school, grind it out game -- both teams played extremely hard. We just got lucky enough to make free throws at the end."

The Pirates were 18 of 30 at the free throw line while the Red Storm were 10 of 24, including two misses in the final minute.

St. John's took its last lead of the game at 61-60 on one of two free throws by Durand Johnson with 10 seconds to play. Whitehead was fouled by Ron Mvouika and made the deciding free throws.

St. John's called a timeout with 2.6 seconds left, but the Red Storm turned it over on the inbounds pass.

Desi Rodriguez had a career-high 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting for the Pirates with 19 of the points coming in the first half. Whitehead finished with 10 points, just about half his average for the season.

The Red Storm tied a season high with 21 turnovers and they led to 21 points for the Pirates, one of the top defensive teams in the conference. Khadeen Carrington's big half led the Pirates to a 36-22 lead.

"We played hard," Yakwe said. "The difference was our defense was bad, there were a lot of turnovers and we misses all those free throws."

Seton Hall scored the first 13 points of the game -- nine from Rodriguez -- and the Pirates went on to lead by as many as 19 points in the first half.

The Red Storm came out and scored the first eight points of the second half.

Seton Hall answered with a 6-0 burst, but St. John's would not go away.

Federico Mussini and Mvouika hit 3s to cap a 12-4 run that had the Red Storm, who were living up to their place of third in the NCAA in blocked shots, within 50-49 with 7:12 to play and Seton Hall, which already had two players foul out, needed a timeout.

The game was tied twice and then St. John's took its first lead of the game -- 55-54 with 3:45 to play on a back-in move by Yankuba Sima.


Seton Hall: Rodriguez is the only player in the Big East who is shooting over 50 percent (50.9) from the field and over 35 percent from 3-point range. ... This is the first time since joining the Big East that Seton Hall has swept Georgetown and St. John's in the same season. ... In their previous six games in which the Pirates went 5-1, Whitehead averaged 21.0 points, 6.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds.

St. John's: Mussini is second in the conference in free throw shooting at 86.9 percent. Creighton's Isaiah Zierden is first at 87.1 percent. ... This was 95th meeting between the schools, a rivalry that began in 1909. St. John's still leads the series 58-37. ... Of the six major offensive statistics St. John's is not 10th and last in the conference in only one. The Red Storm are eighth in 3-point shooting (32.8 percent).


Seton Hall hosts No. 23 Providence on Thursday.

St. John's is at DePaul on Thursday.