By Laura Amato
Marcus LoVett doesn’t care when he gets into the game. The only thing he’s worried about is what he does once he’s on the court.
The St. John’s redshirt freshman came off the bench Saturday afternoon – for the second straight game – but he set the tone of the Red Storm’s Big East hoops matchup against Seton Hall, leading his squad to a 78-70 victory at Madison Square Garden.
LoVett packed his stat sheet, finishing the Big East tilt with a game-high 19 points, six assists and three steals.
“I knew coming into this game that I was going to come off the bench,” LoVett said. “I just tried to do the best I could coming off the bench and give that spark for us and it worked out well for us.”
The Red Storm’s performance was a complete turnaround from the team’s first meeting in Newark earlier this year. St. John’s hit its stride late in the first half – taking a 37-27 lead into the break – but more importantly, the Storm controlled Seton Hall’s big men, namely Angel Delgado.
The Pirates’ junior – who went for 21 points and 20 rebounds against St. John’s Jan. 22 – was held to just 13 points and 10 rebounds and was a non-factor down the stretch as St. John’s wrapped up the victory.
“As a team we just boxed him out, we made sure we got to him,” forward Tariq Owens said. “Last time we played them, he was a major impact on the game. So coming into this game he was just a major focus of what we had to do.”
LoVett helped St. John’s grab some early-game momentum out of the backcourt, joined – as per usual – by fellow guard Shamorie Ponds. The Brooklyn native chipped in 17 points of his own and the duo helped the Red Storm force the Pirates into a whopping 18 turnovers.
St. John’s scored 30 points off turnovers.
“Defensively we stepped up. That was major,” LoVett said. “[What] we talked about in practice was just stepping up as the guards and trying to get as many steals and deflections as we could. We knew that was going to get our team going.”
It wasn’t just the St. John’s backcourt which excelled, however – Owens continued his strong play at the Garden with 10 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. His put-back dunk late in the first half woke up the crowd and effectively set Seton Hall back on its collective toes.
“I thought that one exchange probably changed the whole complexion of the game,” Red Storm coach Chris Mullin said. “Statistically it probably showed up more so tonight, but he always has a huge impact.”
Seton Hall made it a single-digit game with just over four minutes left to play, but the Pirates could never quite get over the final hump. By the final whistle, St. John’s had put players score double figures and collectively shot 90.5 percent from the free throw line and. Most importantly, the Red Storm moved into fifth place in the Big East standings with the victory.
“All along I felt like if we played really tough defense and we play unselfish on the offensive end, I think we can play just about anybody,” Mullin said. “We’ve shown we can be dangerous to our opponents and dangerous to ourselves. We’ve just got to make sure we’re dangerous to opponents more.”