Defensive pressure proves key as No. 23 Seton Hall stifles Fairleigh Dickinson 90-68

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NEWARK – We saw shades of new-look defensive pressure from No. 23 Seton Hall during the preseason and it turned the tide in their 90-68 season-opening win over Fairleigh Dickinson.

Kevin Willard has hinted at it and quasi-promised full court press looks for a few seasons now without it materializing.

This season’s unprecedented depth appears to be the key to unlock that bag of tricks.

“We came out early and we got a lead but their three-quarters court press really sped us up and the turnovers followed,” explained Fairleigh Dickinson boss Greg Herenda after the loss.

“Their pressure — we have a freshmen point guard — but their pressure defense sped us up and they’ll speed other teams up … their quickness, their size, their experience, the biggest difference [compared to last year] is they can be a faster more athletic defensive team.”

Herenda’s team, which was missing all-NEC guard Darian Anderson (stress fracture) who he labelled as “our Aaron Rodgers”, controlled the tempo early and jumped out to a 12-5 lead that left Prudential Center feeling uneasy.

Following the first media timeout, Kevin Willard then switched to an aggressive defensive stance that immediately yielded five Knights turnovers over a two-minute span.

Sensing blood in the water, Seton Hall pounced, leaving a 20-3 run in their wake that provided ample cushion to work with for the remainder.

“That was because they had a freshman point guard and [Darian] Anderson was not playing,” said Willard of the defensive look.

“The goal was to speed them up … Knowing they had no Anderson, pressure him, speed him up a little bit, get them worn out, that was the plan today.

“I do that in all honesty, game-to-game. If I feel we have an advantage by being a little more aggressive [I’ll do it] — if I feel they have two little quick guards who are just going to wear my guys out, there’s no point in doing that. It’s a game-by-game thing.”

While that may be true, we’ve rarely seen consecutive defensive possessions like Friday night over the past few seasons.

A stickler for defense, Willard and his staff record all deflections as a barometer of who is playing the hardest. And with probably the greatest depth he’s had as a Division I head coach — his words — Willard now wields all the tools to alter games on the defensive end like he did tonight.

The players seem completely fine with that.

“We like pressing, it kind of speeds teams up and makes them take rushed shots if you don’t get a steal,” said Khadeen Carrington.

“And I think we got two or three ten-second calls, pressuring those guys we knew they had a freshman guard and he wasn’t gonna handle it well so we just tried to get in his shorts and put him under pressure. That was the plan coming into it.”

“Yeah, he [Willard] really wants to push the tempo and keep going at ‘em and at ‘em, he doesn’t want us to pull our foot off the brake. It’s a team effort.” said freshman Myles Cale, who added 12 points off the bench.

Cale, who was diving all over Walsh Gym up 20 points in an exhibition game just last weekend, has clearly bought into Willard’s schemes about eight months removed from tearing his left labrum. 

The freshman led Seton Hall in steals, but the other Myles allegedly tops the team’s charts in a key defensive category: deflections.

“Myles [Powell] gets a lot of deflections. I think I led us in deflections today though, I had six or seven,” said Carrington, smirking.

“That’s what we focus on though, deflecting the ball because it disrupts the offense. Coach says that’s who is playing the hardest at all times.”

For Seton Hall, it’s probably a healthy thing that players are not only keeping track of deflections, but bragging about them.

Those deflections — and defensive intensity — turned the tide on opening night.

  • Andrew Herbst

    Love the d tonight. Lot of intensity. Hopefully we can keep it up.

    • ThePirateFan

      omg that’s what she said.

      Thanks, folks. see you next season.

      • Andrew Herbst

        Long way to go. This will be a fun year.

      • Oh boy.

  • 1968_bills_fan

    From watching the game and the box score, Gill did not play. Does this confirm that he is headed for a red-shirt year?

    • Willard was asked after the game and he did not say he was going to redshirt, but it seems likely. “Coaches decision” — it came off as an awkward response.

  • SHU95

    Great opening night, glad we were able to get a nice look at the freshmen. I was impressed with all three and think they will be big contributors come Feb.

    • Sandro had a little bit of a rough game. His hands weren’t great, a lot of drops.

      Cale was very impressive, the best of the three. Walker was also a lot more composed than in preseason and played the role of backup PG very well.

      • RonD

        I thought Sandro looked good going to the glass aggressively and keeping balls alive. He can back up Angel. Also, he lost out on 5 more points he should have had. A 10 foot jumper that was negated by an offensive foul by Gordon and a corner 3 that came just after a shot clock violation.

        He was rushing things a bit catching passes–opening night jitters. And the 3/4 court bounce pass from Walker that Sandro couldn’t quite handle would have brought the house down. But in fairness to Sandro the pass was a little low.

      • SHU95

        Agree, I thought it might have even been ‘first game jitters’ (Sandro)… But even with that, he passes the eye test, great size, can shoot & rebound. He will look like a different player come mid Jan. For me, Jordan was the biggest ??? Mark coming in. Once again, there will be growing pains, but he passed eye test again for me. He just has a confident bounce in his step, he is going to be a good one. Cale’s transition, although only one game, looked the most seem less. By next season he & Powell will Both be worthy starters…

  • LBP

    Myles Powell was all over the Court (and on the floor ) last nite. Kid has improved so much.

  • Louie Dee

    Myles Cale new name is Kangaroo Cale! Lol
    The kid was jumping all over the place. He’s so athletic. I love he’s energy!

  • PadrePirate

    FDU coach Greg Herenda: “Seton Hall is a fine bottle of wine.”
    Like it, but how about something more explosive like champagne…or Wonka fizzy lifting drinks.

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