Seton Hall St. John's
(Photo via St. John's Athletics)

Big East basketball is back. Seton Hall kicks off the conference schedule with a strong win over local rival St. John’s.

The 2020 college basketball season has been anything but normal, but fans were treated to an old-school rivalry game between Seton Hall (4-3, 1-0) and St. John’s (5-2, 1-0). Aside from cardboard cutouts, the stands were empty in the Prudential Center.

But fans or no fans, the Pirates were able to extend their home winning streak over the Red Storm to seven games. Let’s take a look at a few key takeaways from this game.

Seton Hall Dictated The Pace

Full-court pressure is Mike Anderson‘s preferred style of play. He’s a disciple of Nolan Richardson, but St. John’s did not give Seton Hall “40 Minutes of Hell” on Friday night.

In fact, the Pirates were able to dictate the pace of play from start to finish. When the Johnnies aren’t generating points off of turnovers, they are going to have a tough time winning games.

The Red Storm only scored 13 points off of turnovers compared to Seton Hall’s 14. That’s not going to cut it against any Big East team, let alone the defending champions.

They are still trying to figure out how to thrive in halfcourt sets. Julian Champagnie was once again the Red Storm’s best player, but the offense can get bogged down at times. Champagnie finished with 24 points and six rebounds.

Sandro Mamukelashvili Came To Play

Sandro Mamukelashvili came out firing early and finished with a career-high 32 points on the night while adding nine rebounds. Seton Hall desperately needs Mamukelashvili to play like this if they want to stay afloat in the Big East.

While Harvard grad transfer Bryce Aiken deals with an injury, the Pirates are going to have to lean on Mamukelashvili heavily. Takal Molson has shown a knack for scoring early on this season, but there is no consistent second banana behind Mamukelashvili.

St. John’s is more of a guard-heavy roster which allowed Mamukelashvili to get to his spots. The Georgian-born power forward was efficient as well, hitting 12-of-18 from the floor and 3-for-5 from deep.

It’s a bit early for All-American chatter, but it’s clearly something that’s on Mamukelashvili’s mind. If he keeps playing like this, an All-American nod isn’t so crazy.

What’s Next For Both Teams

This game wasn’t even supposed to happen. As we are seeing throughout college basketball, the 2020-21 schedule is going to be fluid. Seton Hall will go on a mini-break although not COVID-19 related. They were supposed to play on Tuesday, but Xavier is pushing pause after a positive COVID-19 test result in the program.

Head coach Kevin Willard says his squad will take a break until they play Marquette on Thursday. The Golden Eagles (4-1) recently knocked off No. 4 Wisconsin on a buzzer-beater. That game will be a big test for the Pirates.

St. John’s, on the other hand, will turn around and head down I-95 for a matchup with Georgetown (2-2). The last time these two teams met, the Hoyas stormed back from down double-digits to shock the Johnnies. Even though there are some new faces on St. John’s this year, bet the house that they are looking for revenge.