|St. John's players head back to the bench as Seton Hall celebrates. Photo by Jason Schott.|
Seton Hall staged an epic comeback capped by a Shavar Reynolds buzzer-beating three-pointer to outlast St. John's, 76-74, on Saturday night in Newark.
This was the Big East Conference opener for both teams, and it is St. John's first loss of the season after 12 wins in non-conference play. Seton Hall went 9-3 in non-conference play, with signature wins over Kentucky and Maryland.
St. John's came out strong in this one, jumping out to a 6-0 lead on three-pointers from Mustapha Heron and Marvin Clark II.
St. John's would race to a 15-4 lead on a Justin Simon jumper four minutes in. Seton Hall would pull within four points, at 14-20, but St. John's would open up a 13-point edge, 45-32, on another Heron three-pointer, with 1:50 left. St. John's took a 45-36 lead into halftime.
The Red Storm maintained their lead into the second half, as they went up 12, at 64-52, on a Shamorie Ponds layup with 9:45 left.
Eventually, Seton Hall started to find a rhythm with around seven minutes left, and they went on a 10-0 run capped by a Sandro Mamukelashvili three-pointer that tied the game at 69 with 3:30 left. That sent the crowd of 10,481 at Prudential Center into a frenzy.
Clark responded with a three-pointer of his own to make it 72-69 St. John's with 2:26 remaining. On St. John's next possession, Clark got caught setting a pick and he was called for an offensive foul, his fifth of the game, and that was all for his night.
Clark finished with 16 points on 5-7 from the field, including 3-5 on three-pointers, with five rebounds, but he was not available for the stretch run.
Seton Hall took their first lead of the game with 1:00 left when Myles Powell drained a jumper to make it 73-72.
Heron drained a pair of free throws to give St. John's the lead back at 74-73, but he then missed the front end of a one-and-one with 30 seconds left, and Ponds did the same thing with 13 seconds left, opening the door to a Seton Hall comeback.
Powell went down the lane for a layup with around 6 seconds left, and Seton Hall corralled the offensive rebound with 3.9 seconds left.
On the inbounds pass, Figueroa caught it and appeared to handle it for the steal, but the referees inexplicably blew the whistle.
After a 10-minute review, Seton Hall was awarded the ball with 3.1 seconds left. The Big East Conference's explanation after the game, which was given in an official statement from Stu Jackson was: "The official decided it was a timing error. The clock did not start on the initial touch by the St. John's defender on the throw-in."
Seton Hall was given a lifeline, and eventually, Mamuhelashvili found Reynolds alone on the three-point line on the right side, and he drained the three to make it 76-74 and start the celebration.
After officials reviewed that, it was discovered that Heron fouled Reynolds, so he went to the free throw line with 0.4 seconds left and he missed, preventing St. John's a chance to inbound and try for a last-second three.
Reynolds, a sophomore guard from Manchester, New Jersey, was a walk-on last season, and he has become a player Seton Hall Head Coach Kevin Willard can rely on.
"All his hard work has given me confidence to put him in the game in that kind of situation, and he played really well at Maryland (on December 22)," Willard said of Reynolds, who scored 8 points on Saturday night. "I thought he gave us a really good spark at Maryland, and at that point, you're thinking it's going to be a drive-and-kick. He's probably our second-best shooter, and I just have -- because he worked so hard and he's in the gym hours and hours and hours -- I had total confidence that he could make the shot.
"It's just really gratifying. Every high school kid should understand that if you work really, really hard and you have a great attitude, and you're a good person, good things are going to happen to you. And that's Shavar Reynolds. He works hard, he's a great person, he's a 4.0 student, and good things are happening to him because of his hard work."
"I wouldn't put him in the game if I didn't think he could help us, and from a defensive standpoint more than anything, he gives us a lot of energy and I always know that when he goes into a game, defensively, he's going to change the game in a good way for us defensively."
Reynolds said of what this meant to him, "That was like solidifying all the hard work and all the hours in the gym. That was all worth it."
On how he felt as the ball went through the hoop, Reynolds said, "Honestly, in the moment, it feels like it's forever. When I saw it go up, it looked good, and then it dropped, my first thought was I gotta run like Desi (Rodriguez) last year."
Willard said of how they drew up the final play after the replay review, "I asked Q (Quincy McKnight), 'Did you throw it out of bounds?' And he said, 'No, it got deflected.' We just drew it up, and the big thing was just how much time there was going to be -- 3.5 (seconds) or three. The play was zipper Myles (Powell) up, get Myles the ball and everybody get out of his way, but the second option was if they both jumped on him, to hit Sandro. Q was a cut back door, but I think Sandro was so surprised that he was right in front of the rim, and he made a good kick-out, and Shavar was there and ready, so it's amazing that we executed at the end of the game the way we did."
St. John's Head Coach Chris Mullin said of their defensive mindset on the last play, “We felt that they were going to go to (Myles) Powell. We made a mistake switching off the ball. That kid made a hell of a shot at the end of the game.”
Mullin said of what went wrong for St. John's towards the end of the game, “I think it was more ball movement or lack of from our part. In the first half I thought we moved the ball well. I think we had 13 assists at half. We’ll look at it on tape again, but the ball got stuck in the second half. We just didn’t move the ball well in the second half.”
Mamukelashvili had 14 points on 5-8 from the field, including 1-4 from behind the arc (the three that tied the game at 69), with 8 rebounds and 4 assists (including on the game-winning shot).
Willard said of his maturity, "I think the biggest maturity for Sandro is that he really struggled early on. He wasn't playing well, and then for him to end up with 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists, I think that shows maturity -- I think he sat for a good straight six minutes in the second half -- to get off the bench and then make some big plays, and really play well defensively towards the end of the game.
"He didn't get to shoot a whole lot last year -- I don't think he got to shoot at all -- and so now, what he's trying to get used to more than anything is now that if you take five threes, more than likely, you're going to miss three of them. If you go 2-for-5, you're a 40 percent three-point shooter, and that means you're a pretty good shooter in college. I think it's him just getting used to the fact that it's okay to miss shots. He's not going to come out and -- like, last year, he only got two minutes at a time -- now he's out there for 12 minutes. You're going to miss some shots, you're going to make some mistakes. It's learning that that's okay."
One of the most interesting matchups in this one was between Seton Hall's Myles Powell and St. John's Shamorie Ponds.
Powell finished with 15 points (5-15 FG, 1-4 three-pointers, 4-4 free throws), with 4 rebounds, and an assist. Ponds had 8 points (2-13 FG, 1-6 on threes), with 7 assists and 6 rebounds.
Seton Hall kept Ponds off the scoreboard until the 10:25 mark of the second half. Willard said of that, "The biggest thing was we wanted to start off the game and not give him threes early in the game, which obviously, we didn't do. I think, to be perfectly honest with you, I just think Quincy McKnight really worked his butt off on guarding him and just made things hard on him. I think that's one thing Q does better than anything. He might not get steals on the ball, but he just really works hard to make guys work over him. I think Shamorie did a really good job in the first half of getting everybody involved, and I think when he had to score, sometimes it's kind of hard to flip that switch back on. I thought Q did a really good job of just staying low, staying down on him and trying to make him work."
McKnight, a junior guard, had 14 points on 5-11 from the field, 1-2 on three-pointers, with 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
Willard said of Seton Hall winning its Big East Conference opener in this fashion, "It's league play, you can definitely tell league play's here. We've played a lot of good teams, and that might be the best team we've played, one through five. They make it so hard on you to defend them, and Shamorie, the way he gets guys involved. The three days off hurt us a little bit, we weren't as sharp as I wanted to be at the start of the game and we had some mistakes early in the game that we hadn't been making for a while, but that's a good basketball team. They're going to win a lot of games in this league."