Seton Hall's plane ride back to New Jersey this week probably wasn't needed. The Pirates, ranked No. 18, could have floated home after a victory Wednesday at No. 5 Butler.
The Pirates (13-4, 5-0) will not have much time to celebrate. They can continue their march up the national rankings with another victory Saturday afternoon against St. John's in a Big East Conference game at New York's Madison Square Garden.
On a seven-game winning streak, Seton Hall is the only unbeaten team in the conference. And they justified their return into the rankings this week as Myles Powell scored a game-high 29 points, while Romaro Gill scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half at Butler.
In one game, Powell moved up two spots on the all-time Seton Hall scoring list to fifth place with 1,993 points. He passed Andre McCloud (1982-86) and Dan Callandrillo (1978-82).
Seton Hall closed on a 13-4 run to earn the 78-70 win at Indianapolis. It was the 43rd time a ranked Seton Hall team faced a ranked opponent. The Pirates are now 21-22 in those matchups.
Never before has Seton Hall opened its Big East Conference schedule 5-0 while going 3-0 in road games. Now comes another on the road against St. John's. Saturday's game will lead into three consecutive conference home games and a chance to solidify the Pirates' place atop the conference.
"Four of six on the road (to start conference play), I love how we've gone out and handled the road," Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said postgame on WMVA 570 AM radio. "... This place (Butler) got loud. And there was a different feeling in the huddle. We didn't have our eyes looking up (at the crowd). It was like, 'OK, let's get our breath.' It was a nice feeling."
St. John's will not be riding as high. The Red Storm enter the game off a 63-58 defeat at Providence in a game they led in the second half only to watch the advantage slip away.
St. John's lost even with Friars leading scorer Alpha Diallo on the bench for much of the second half in foul trouble. They were just 6 of 22 (27.3 percent) from 3-point range and 8 of 13 (61.5 percent) from the free-throw line. They also had 13 turnovers.
"We were careless with the basketball early on," head coach Mike Anderson said, according to the New York Post. "At the end of the day it was one of those games we're going to look back on ..."
LJ Figueroa had 12 points for St. John's, while Rasheem Dunn had 11. The Red Storm managed to hold Providence to 35.6 shooting from the field and had 11 steals. It was their fifth consecutive game with double-digit steals, the longest such streak in the nation.
They will need that kind of defense against a Seton Hall team that hasn't lost since they were held to 48 points at Rutgers on Dec. 14. But they followed that defeat with a 52-48 victory over No. 7 Maryland and have scored at least 74 points in five of six games since.
Going back to last season, Seton Hall has won seven consecutive regular-season conference games. The school record is eight by the 1992-92 and the 2002-03 teams.
--Field Level Media