NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Sterling Gibbs knows there’s a long way to go, and that’s why the Seton Hall guard didn’t want to get too excited after his near-flawless performance against No. 15 St. John’s.
Gibbs had 25 points, eight assists and no turnovers to lead the Pirates past the Red Storm 78-67 in the Big East opener for both teams Wednesday.
“This is just the first game in the Big East,” said Gibbs, a junior. “It’s not like we won the national championship. I think we proved ourselves a little bit, beating the No. 15 team in the country. But we have to build off this. It’s one game.”
Jaren Sina added 14 points for the Pirates (11-2, 1-0) in their first victory over a ranked opponent since stunning No. 3 Villanova in the conference tournament last March.
The Red Storm (11-2, 0-1) had won seven straight since their only previous loss, 73-66 to then-No. 10 Gonzaga in late November.
Gibbs and Sina both clicked from long range, with Gibbs shooting 5 of 7 on 3-pointers and Sina going 4 for 8 from behind the arc.
“I think Sterling and I hit some big shots that gave us momentum,” Sina said.
Freshman forward Angel Delgado added 13 points and 12 rebounds for Seton Hall, and senior forward Brandon Mobley had 13 points with 10 boards. Another freshman, guard Khadeen Carrington, scored 11.
Gibbs, however, was definitely the story.
“He’s playing at a level where I envisioned him,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “He’s worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever coached to get to this point. He’s now receiving what he worked for. He’s getting rewarded for working real hard.”
D’Angelo Harrison paced St. John’s with 25 points before fouling out. Phil Greene IV added 15 and Rysheed Jordan scored 11 off the bench.
“Sterling Gibbs had one of the better performances anyone has had against St. John’s in a very long time,” Red Storm coach Steve Lavin said. “It was as close to a masterpiece as you’ll get. For a leader, for a point guard, he executed very well. He was in the zone. His playmaking and poise were the difference. He’s the central nervous system of Seton Hall.”
After the Red Storm controlled play for most of the first half, Seton Hall outscored them 13-4 over the final 4 minutes before the break. Sina scored five straight, including a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left that gave the Pirates the lead at 37-35.
Gibbs drained a 3 with 6 seconds remaining to make it 40-35.
“We let them do what they wanted to do,” Harrison said. “We didn’t play St. John’s basketball. We knew that those two guys (Gibbs and Sina) could shoot and we let them shoot. It started with them. Gibbs is the main guy. He beat us and we let it happen.”
Seton Hall also used the 3 to increase the lead in the second half. Gibbs, Mobley and then Sina nailed shots from long range as the Pirates took a 53-43 lead with 12:20 left on Sina’s 3-pointer.
Sina’s third 3 of the game gave the Pirates their biggest lead at 58-44 with 10:02 remaining.
Harrison scored four straight points to cut it to 58-50 with 8:37 left. He hit two free throws to slice the deficit to 65-63 with 5:12 to go, but the Pirates countered with a basket by Delgado before Gibbs drained a 3 as the shot clock ran out to push the lead to 70-63 with 4 minutes left.
“We made a run, but credit them for recognizing that,” Harrison said.
Willard was pleased with the way his team responded.
“I’m proud of the way we finished. That was the difference. Sterling was phenomenal and the rest followed. Now we have to back this up,” he said. “We have to try to do it all again against Villanova.”
St. John’s: The winning streak was the longest for the Red Storm since 1999-00, when they won eight in a row on the way to a 25-win season. … St. John’s entered averaging 6.9 blocked shots per game, good for sixth in the nation. … St. John’s did not allow more than 57 points in any of its previous seven games.
Seton Hall: The Pirates are playing without heralded freshman Isaiah Whitehead, the preseason Big East Rookie of the Year. Whitehead sustained a stress fracture in his right foot two weeks ago and is out indefinitely. He was averaging 11.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists over 11 games. … Seton Hall had only one lead change in its previous five games, leading from start to finish in wins over Maine, South Florida and St. Peter’s, and trailing from the start against Georgia and Wichita State. There was one lead change in the first half Wednesday.
St. John’s hosts Butler at Carnesecca Arena on campus Saturday.
Seton Hall hosts No. 6 Villanova (13-0) on Saturday.
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