NEWARK – They have their ups and downs, but when this Seton Hall team is clicking, they can put on a real show.
The sold-out student section has known it for awhile, Pirates fans are easing up on their impulse to be negative and realizing it, and Indiana now certainly understands.
No. 22 Seton Hall wound up routing a wobbly Indiana 84-68, but the Hoosiers fought hard in the first half, trading metaphorical and near physical blows with their hosts, overcoming a series of six-to-eight point deficits to trail by just one.
Kevin Willard gave his guys a talking to at the half and reminded them in a “friendly” manner to feed big man Angel Delgado (19p, 11r, 4a).
Fast forward a few minutes of game clock and Seton Hall rattled off a damning 20-5 run to tear a titanic gash through the side of Indiana’s will.
The rest of the game wasn’t that close.
“They gave us their best shot in the first half. We didn’t give the best shot in the first half,” said Delgado of Indiana.
“In the second half, everybody got it together. We just came with the mindset that we have to control the game and be the best team in the second [half].”
And that they did.
Myles Powell (11p, 4a) hit a few clutch shots including the ultimate dagger with about six to play in the game, but it was the core seniors – Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, and Delgado – who led the charge in a game against a historic program they were certainly looking forward to.
“They [the seniors] responded the way they’ve done for the last couple years,” said Kevin Willard.
“We got into halftime and we talked about getting the ball back inside, inside-out and making sure the big guy touches it … Sometimes you just need a friendly reminder that you have him down there,” added Willard with a smirk.
“I reminded the new guys when you come in the game you’re in there with him, he’s really your security blanket. Just chuck it into him and work off of it.”
Delgado, who most certainly impressed over a dozen NBA scouts at Prudential Center, backed up his coach’s words, finding his guards on several ocassions en route to four helpers. That doesn’t count the hockey assists.
“When you get double teamed so much, you have to become a great passer,” said Delgado.
“That’s what I’ve been working on all these years. That’s what coach has been telling me: ‘If you’re the type of guy who can pass the ball, you’re going to be tough to double.’”
Oddly enough — and Angel was equally as confused about it — Indiana did not double the big man much, if at all.
But the Domican, who Willard labeled as an “elite passer”, found his guys anyway and Seton Hall erupted for 51 second half points. Delgado was no doubt at the epicenter of the onslaught.
“I was really really surprised about that [not being doubled]. I was expecting a lot of double teams, that’s why I was ready to pass. That’s why when they didn’t double team, I still passed it,” said an amused Delgado.
“I had my mind set that they were going to double, but they didn’t.”
While Willard certainly gave his guys a few jabs in the ribs at the half, Delgado and Desi Rodriguez were all smiles after the game about the message being communicated to the team.
“They know. I kind of put the face, like ‘Yo guys, c’mon’”, joked Delgado in his ever-improving but thick accent about how his teammates know when to feed him.
“He gets a little pouty. Angel is a big baby, you know what I’m saying?” joked an energetic Rodriguez, who had as much bounce post-game as he does in games.
“Just like with food, if he’s hungry, that’s how he acts.”
Frankly, Seton Hall didn’t need to activate their All-American caliber big man during the first two games of the season.
But when faced with a tougher high-major test tonight, something extra seemed to click during halftime and Delgado made sure to be the focal point there on out.
He made things happen and as a result, positive things happened around him.
And if you’re not convinced that this team is up there nationally in entertainment value when they get going, let tonight be a reminder.
Myles Cale two-handed flushes. Ish Sanogo dunks off the backboard. Pump-fake skip passes from your center for a made corner three.
Each player deserves some credit of course, but Willard pushed the right button, the one with a large “ANGEL” label on it.
“Every time I get a rebound, an assist, a point, I’m trying to get my guys going. I don’t really think about me, I’m trying to get them going,” said a sincere Delgado with a big smile.
“They tell me ‘If you go, if you get crazy, we’ll go crazy.’ So I’ve got to get crazy sometimes so my guys can wake up.”