NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Before the 2011-12 season, the freshman class brought in by St. John’s was considered to be one of the best in the nation.
Tuesday night, however, Seton Hall’s crop of freshmen outplayed the St. John’s rookies in completely dominant fashion, en route to a 94-64 easy win.
“I always liked our freshmen,” said Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, praising freshmen Aaron Cosby, Brandon Mobley and Haralds Karlis, who combined to score 41 points. “I knew Cosby would be good. I liked what Mobley could bring to us and Haralds can make shots.”
Both Mobley (14 points) and Karlis (13) registered new career highs, while Cosby, who has been a force of late, averaging 13 points per game over the last four, also scored 14.
Jordan Theodore added 16 points and 10 assists for Seton Hall (18-8, 7-7 Big East).
The Pirates shot well, making 62.3 percent from the field (33 of 53). The hot shooting extended behind the arc, as Seton Hall made a season-high 15 of 24 (62.5 percent).
Seton Hall made its first nine 3-pointers of the second half, turning a 40-28 halftime advantage into a laugher.
“It’s the way I drew it up,” Willard said with a laugh.
“It was an avalanche of confidence, once they got going,” said St. John’s assistant coach Mike Dunlap, still filling in for the recovering Steve Lavin as head coach, after Lavin had prostate cancer surgery last October. “They could have had their team manager out there and he would have been making 3s.”
Cosby said that it was all about gaining confidence to go along with the experience.
“Going up against St. John’s was good for us,” said Cosby, who had a season-high 19 Sunday in a win over Pittsburgh. “We need confidence, and it comes from games like this.”
The victory helped Seton Hall in its quest to receive a bid for the NCAA tournament, winning its third straight after suffering through a six-game skid.
According to Willard, it’s not too early to start thinking about the postseason.
“Definitely, when you look at our RPI (30), the amount of road games we’ve played and the quality wins,” Willard said. “We always had the big picture in mind, even when we lost six in a row. We kept a positive attitude because we had a chance to put ourselves in position, and we’re in position now. We have some work to do but it’s all you can ask for.”
The 30-point victory margin tied the largest this season for the Pirates, who defeated NJIT 78-48 on Dec. 6.
Moe Harkless led the Red Storm (10-16, 4-10) with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and D’Angelo Harrison and Sir’ Dominic Pointer tallied 12 points each.
“I thought we did a good job of going inside-out,” Willard said. “Then we got to the gaps and found open shots. We were taking good shots and had the right guys taking them.”
Seton Hall, which never trailed, took control midway through the first half with a 10-0 run that gave the Pirates a 26-15 lead.
Two freshman guards keyed the run. Freddie Wilson nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing and Cosby was fouled attempting a 3 and made all three free throws to give the Pirates a 24-15 lead with 8:15 left.
Another freshman, Karlis, made a long 3-pointer from the right corner that gave the Pirates their biggest lead at 36-21 with 1:53 left in the half.
The Red Storm managed to keep the game within reach with the play of freshman forward Harkless, who had 10 points in the opening half, including a rebound basket in the closing seconds that sliced the Pirates’ lead to 40-28 at the break.
The Pirates then pushed the lead to 52-32 with a 12-4 run in the opening stages of the second half, thanks to five points from Fuquan Edwin, first connecting from long range, then scoring on a driving basket with 16:19 left.
Seton Hall gradually increased its lead to as many as 34 with just under four minutes left.
The undermanned Red Storm, who had only six scholarship players in uniform, couldn’t keep up.
“It was more mental than it was physical,” Dunlap said. “I’m not accepting it as an excuse, but it’s something we understand. I don’t ever feel helpless. Seton Hall has the ability to shoot the ball, and they’re not as dependent on one or two players to win games. They just got on a roll in the second half. It was a momentum thing that just kept cascading.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)