RECAP: And so the year ends as it began: with a loss. In their first game of the season last January 3rd SJU lost to Georgetown in the midst of a 5-game losing streak that effectively ended their season. Seton Hall, playing without injured Isiah Whitehead, put a pretty good beating on Saint John’s Wednesday afternoon in their last game of 2014, winning at home by 11 and dropping Saint John’s into a tie for last place in the Big East. Saint John’s had a couple of 6-point leads in the first half and looked on the verge of blowing them out but SH closed the half with a 15-8 run to take a 5-point lead into the locker room. They extended that lead to 15 at the 10 minute mark and withstood Saint John’s vaunted pressure defense down the stretch. They had every opportunity to crumble late but did not … Saint John’s shot poorly – mostly because they didn’t move the ball – and their defense didn’t produce the easy baskets it did in the win over Tulane. Once again their free throw and three point shooting was putrid. For their part SH didn’t turn it over, controlled the boards and made their threes … Seton Hall was awarded twice as many free throws as SJ and made more than half of them. This is ironic considering that opponents have been shooting a little more than 50 percent from the line versus SJ and that SH shoots about that for the season … Once again Lavin didn’t do anything egregious but he didn’t seem to do anything to help the situation either. That would be I guess one of the luxuries of “not feeling any inordinate pressure to win,” which is how Lavin explained his coaching philosophy in an interview with Jon Rothstein this week. His ensemble – a black sweat suit with turquoise piping under pinstripes – caused Gus Johnson to say that “he’s given up,” which is pretty damning coming from a lickspittle like Johnson, who has nothing bad to say about anybody. For example, he called Jim Burr “a great BB official,” whereas Jim Burr is an abomination and said that Phil Greene was having a “terrific start to the season,” whereas PG4 is shooting 37 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three, which is not terrific … I had this game down as a loss* and am not too upset about it, but I assume it was unsettling for SJU fans who had visions of Elite Eights dancing in their tiny little brains after beating up the cupcakes in the preseason. Hopefully the loss serves as a wakeup call for a team that has a tendency to play lackadaisically and is not a harbinger of doom to come for a team that still looks like it could go either way.
PLAYERS: Harrison was unconscious in the first half and finished with 25 before fouling out … Phil Greene had sixteen points but missed 10 shots getting them. He attempted to replicate his late game heroics versus Syracuse by taking a variety of off kilter and unlikely shots during Saint John’s aborted comeback, but few of them went in, because he’s Phil Greene … Obekpa wasn’t awful, but the freshman from Seton Hall was better. His quality knee to the groin sent Khadim Carrington to the bench in the second half … Except for 7 rebounds Pointer was passive and all but invisible … Jordan had 11 points in ten minutes. He was T’d up for hitting Gibbs with the ball when play was stopped to minister to Carrington, which play comprised a six-point swing. … Jamal Branch’s performance would have been disappointing to a good basketball player, but he isn’t, so it wasn’t that bad … JDLR and Balamou played six minutes between them and committed four fouls
NOTES: The game was called by former Seton Hall coach Bill Raftery about whom not even I can be troubled to find something bad to say. Rafferty invented the amiable dunce former coach TV persona, but he actually had a winning record overall as a head coach and was an illustrious high school athlete: Mr. Basketball USA for 1959, for 35 years the all-time leading HS scorer in New Jersey, and all-state in three sports, basketball, baseball and soccer. Tired of getting his brains kicked in in the new Big East, Raftery left SH in 1981 for a career in broadcasting. Raftery’s hand-picked successor
Brian Mahoney Hoddy Mahon lasted only a year and was succeeded by PJ Carlisimo who took SH to within three seconds of the national championship in 1989; they were ahead by one in overtime versus Michigan when a cheesy touch foul gave Rumeal Robinson two free throws that won the game. (That Michigan team was coached by current San Diego State coach Steve Fisher, who was appointed interim coach before the tournament when then coach Bill Frieder announced he was taking the Arizona State job after the season and AD Bo Schembechler fired him.) Much like Saint John’s, SH has floundered since their Final Four appearance, running through a chorus line of incompetents: George Blaney, Tommy Amaker, Louis Orr, and finally Bobby Gonzalez, whose career exploded with the force of 1000 smog filtered Newark suns. Current coach Kevin Willard seems to have the chops and unlimitless ethics to be successful and he has a pretty good eye for talent: besides Whitehead he’s got a couple of NYC players on his roster that would look good in a Saint John’s uniform … Tonight is Saint Sylvester’s Day, or as you heathens call it, New Year’s Eve. On this night custom dictates that revelers gather with friends and acquaintances and carouse in an atmosphere of forced gaiety, accompanied by the mellifluous strains of Guy Lombardo with narration by such luminaries as Cathy Griffin and Dick Clark. Needless to say I’ll be going to bed early.
* “Saint John’s opens the BE season versus SH at the end of the month and speaking of beatdowns I don’t see much good coming out of that.”