NEWARK -- How rough was it for St. John's on Thursday night at Seton Hall?
Even the players who never took the court got abused.
As if Seton Hall's 91-81 victory at The Prudential Center wasn't bad enough, the Seton Hall student section mercilessly taunted injured St. John's star Anthony Mason Jr. all night as he sat on the bench with a boot on his injured right foot. Mason Jr., who is out for the season, endured suggestions like "Put your dad in," which was a reference to his father, Anthony Mason Sr., who starred for the Knicks a generation ago.
Thanks to a game-high 31 points from Jeremy Hazell, the Pirates (12-9, 3-6 Big East) are now on a certified roll. One week after beating in-state rival Rutgers on ESPN2, Seton Hall easily handled its other metropolitan-area rival in another nationally televised affair on the deuce.
"Any time you can get rivalry wins back-to-back, that means a lot," Pirates coach Bobby Gonzalez said. "I pay a lot of attention to that."
The Pirates have won three straight Big East games after dropping the first six of the season. Two of those losses came in overtime.
"It's not easy to get on a roll in this conference, especially after you start out 0-6," Gonzalez said. "But in this league, everybody's got to go against the iron where they play four or five ranked teams in a row. This was a great win for us. I thought we controlled the game pretty much throughout."
Seton Hall's next two games are at Rutgers (10-13, 1-9) on Sunday and at DePaul (8-15, 0-10) Feb. 10. Those two teams are a combined 1-19 in the conference.
Seton Hall visits St. John's Feb. 22 in the rematch.
Hazell scored 13 points in the first half when Seton Hall took a 45-29 lead. Eugene Harvey added 20 points and Robert Mitchell had 11 as the Pirates out shot the Red Storm 52 percent to 43 percent. Jordan Theodore scored all 10 of his points in an assertively played first half. Paul Gause added nine points and 10 rebounds.
Paris Horne scored a team-high 21 points and D.J. Kennedy added 20 for St. John's (12-10, 3-7). The Red Storm are now 0-6 on the road.
Things don't get much easier, as No. 5 Louisville (17-3, 8-1) comes to Madison Square Garden Sunday still smarting from a 17-point loss to No. 1 UConn.
"It's not a step backward," St. John's coach Norm Roberts said. "Every game is a new game in the Big East. Now we've got to get ready for Louisville."
Seton Hall raced out to a 24-9 lead behind eight early points from Harvey and seven from Mitchell.
The Pirates' fullcourt 1-2-2 zone press caused havoc for St. John's, which made seven first-half turnovers either trying to move the ball upcourt or in its own end.
"Our pressure 'D' in the first half was the difference in the game," Gonzalez said.
"We just had some silly mistakes," Horne said. "We turned the ball over a couple of times during that run. We didn't get to the loose balls, the 50-50 balls."
Seton Hall led by as many as 22 points, 39-17, when Hazell drained a 3-pointer.
St. John's sophomore point guard Malik Boothe was in the lineup for the second straight occasion after he missed nine games with a thumb injury but he wasn't able to solve Seton Hall's pressure. Overall, the Red Storm simply didn't have the team speed to solve the Pirates' press or to create enough opportunities on the offensive end.
Boothe blamed himself for the loss.
"That loss doesn't go to anyone but me," Boothe said. "I didn't really say what I normally say [before the game]."
"It's not all on Malik," Roberts said. "We didn't execute. We didn't do what we needed to do to win the game... We didn't guard the way we're capable of guarding."
The Red Storm closed the first half on a 12-6 spurt, getting seven points from Horne and five from Thomas, to cut it to 45-29 at the break.
Early in the second half, Hazell and Sean Evans nearly got into an altercation near the Seton Hall basket. Boothe came off a screen to try to cover Hazell, who was shooting a three, and undercut him in the process, sending Hazell falling to the floor. Hazell looked up and the first person he saw was Evans. He scowled and said something to Evans, but D.J. Kennedy soon got in the middle and then he and Hazell began jawing at one another.
Roberts and Gonzalez came onto the floor to separate the players. Gonzalez hastily pulled Hazell out of the mix and the referees huddled to watch a replay on the monitor.
"I don't know what happened in the corner there," Gonzalez said. "[Hazell] claims somebody kicked him in the head. I'm sure both teams were guilty, to be honest with you."
Kennedy was whistled for the foul and Hazell made all three foul shots for a 52-35 lead.
Seton Hall's lead was double-digits throughout the second half until Justin Burrell cut the deficit to 81-72. Two foul shots by Kennedy made it 81-74 with 1:16 remaining.
A putback by Kennedy cut it to 85-79 but Hazell drained two foul shots for an 87-79 lead.
Now comes the return game with arch-rival Rutgers.
"They're at home, they have rest," Gonzalez said. "And they have the revenge factor. Now we have three wins in a row so hopefully we have confidence."