NEW YORK, FEB. 2 -- Lou Carnesecca got his 500th coaching victory today as Jason Buchanan scored 26 points to lead fifth-ranked St. John's over No. 25 Seton Hall, 81-65, in a Big East game.

"The game was more important than the 500th win," Carnesecca said. "We have to stay in the thick of things and this was a game we had to win like all the ones at home." The Redmen (16-3, 7-3) lead the Big East.

The players gave Carnesecca, 66, a ride off the Madison Square Garden court on their shoulders. "I'm glad it was that kind of ride," he said. "It felt very good and it's something I'll never forget. The New York crowd has a big heart and it always had."

He became the 30th coach with at least five years in Division I to reach 500, and was 10th fastest, needing 683 games. All the victories came with the Redmen, beginning Dec. 4, 1965, in overtime against Georgetown. This was his second shot at No. 500; the Redmen lost at Georgetown on Wednesday.

St. John's led virtually all the way, with Billy Singleton's basket finishing a nine-point run to 29-16.

Seton Hall (13-6, 5-5) closed to 34-29 at halftime even with top scorer Terry Dehere limited to five minutes because of foul trouble. Dehere (16 points) and Anthony Avent (18) scored all but four of the Pirates' first 16 points in the second half as they closed to 53-45 with 7:39 left despite not scoring a field goal for 5:14. The Redmen had a 21-6 spurt for an 81-59 lead with less than a minute to play.

Malik Sealy had 22 points for St. John's, double his total in the teams' first meeting, a 74-62 Seton Hall win. SETON HALL (65)

Karnishovas 1-3 0-1 2, Winchester 4-8 1-2 9, Avent 5-11 8-13 18, Dehere 4-9 7-9 16, Taylor 1-4 0-0 2, Walker 2-5 0-1 4, Caver 2-6 0-0 4, Barnea 0-0 2-2 2, Crist 2-3 2-2 8, Lokar 0-2 0-0 0, Davis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-51 20-30 65.

ST. JOHN'S (81)

Sealy 6-19 10-14 22, Singleton 3-5 2-2 8, Werdann 6-9 2-3 14, Buchanan 6-9 13-13 26, Sproling 2-5 2-4 6, Scott 1-2 1-2 3, Cain 0-2 2-2 2, Mullin 0-0 0-0 0, Muto 0-0 0-0 0, Luyk 0-1 0-0 0, Beckett 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-52 32-40 81.

Halftime: St. John's 34-29.

Three-point goals: Seton Hall 3-11 (Crist 2-3, Dehere 1-4, Karnishovas 0-2, Lokar 0-2), St. John's 1-4 (Buchanan 1-2, Sealy 0-1, Luyk 0-1). Fouled out: None. Rebounds: Seton Hall 34 (Avent 12), St. John's 35 (Sealy 8). Assists: Seton Hall 14 (Karnishovas 3), St. John's 16 (Buchanan 10). Total fouls: Seton Hall 28, St. John's 24. Technical: Seton Hall Coach Carlesimo. Attendance: 14,342.