Delaware Notebook: Seton Hall ‘stuck in neutral’ but wins out in end

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NEWARK — Seton Hall didn’t play their best game, but played well enough to skate past Delaware 81-68 on Saturday night at Prudential Center.

Angel Delgado put up yet another double-double after spraining his ankle when he stepped on a team manager’s foot pre-game, Madison Jones netted a career-high 15 points and Kevin Willard admitted his team was coasting a bit tonight after a stretch of bad practices. All that and more below.

Five thoughts

The effort and defense wasn’t really there from Seton Hall tonight. It seemed like only a sub-set of the team was playing on both ends of the court (Ish Sanogo, Angel Delgado, Madison Jones) and it was reflected in the scoring column with the Pirates never keen on building upon a 8-12 point lead they held for what seemed like 30 minutes. Both Kevin Willard and Angel Delgado admitted that the effort wasn’t 100-percent there, and a mild crowd (albeit understandably thin) did not help inject the team with any life.

Angel Delgado put up 18 points and 15 rebounds on a freshly-sprained ankle. I did notice Delgado favoring his ankle pre-game and once or twice during the game, but I bet the average viewer couldn’t even tell he rolled it on a team manager’s foot during warm-ups. Angel said it hurt badly and that he will ice it tonight, but that he played through it because he didn’t want to lose. Kevin Willard said post-game rather seriously (but likely tongue-in-cheek) that he spoke to Angel pre-game about how his rebounding numbers would go down if only tried to play a few minutes tonight.

Madison Jones had probably his best game in a Pirate uniform tonight. It seems that Jones plays much better against lesser teams, but coincidentally, the performance comes a game prior to getting some competition at point guard from Jevon Thomas, who gains eligibility in time for Rutgers on Friday. Jones said post-game that Thomas’ addition to the fold will only help the team and that he is one of the best defenders he has ever played against.

Seton Hall’s defense was particularly unimpressive in the second half. A sub-300 offensive team, Delaware shot 50-percent after the break compared to 31-percent before it with Anthony Mosley (21) and Ryan Daly (19) doing most of the work for the visitors. Desi Rodriguez, Myles Powell and Khadeen Carrington in particular did not look locked-in behind the ball.

Kevin Willard went deep on his bench early and often, conjouring flashbacks of the Stanford game. Willard used 10 guys by the second media timeout including infrequently utilized guards Eron Gordon and Dalton Soffer, which contrasted with a shortened rotation against South Carolina. This was likely in an attempt to get these guys some time before the Big East starts up; Eron Gordon has proved to be steady in limited minutes.

Five quotes (plus two)

Kevin Willard on exterior factors (finals, travel, trap game, etc.) affecting his team: “It definitely seemed that way. We probably had our worst four-day stretch of practice that we’ve had in a long time and I think that was the reason why we didn’t play well.”

Willard on his pre-game talk with Angel Delgado: “Angel stepped on one of our manager’s foot and sprained his ankle right before the game, and he wasn’t going to play. I said you can’t play 7 minutes because you’re averaging 11.8 RPG. I said, ‘If you’re going to play, you have to play your normal 32 minutes because we’re not messing up your rebound numbers by playing only 7 minutes.’ I don’t think he understood what I meant at first, but that when he decided to play. He played great.”

Willard explaining why his team couldn’t really put Delaware away: “In the first half, it was our free-throws. We should have been up 16 at halftime if we made half our free throws. When you play good offense and get to the free-throw line and you don’t reward yourself, you’re going to sit in that 8-10 point range. In the second half, we got up 13 and then 15, but we had two turnovers in a row for their easy buckets and we got stuck in neutral.”

Angel Delgado on if he thought his guys didn’t play 100-percent today: “I didn’t like how we came into the game today. But I told the guys we need to fight through it, whatever it is, if you’ve got personal problems, you have to fight through it because that’s how you get tough — tough in life and on the court too.”

Delgado on staying focused during finals week: “It was tough, because I’ve got Statistics [class]. I really don’t like Stats, my mind was in another space. But we fight through it. I talked to the guys too, we’ve got to fight through it. Exams are almost over and by Friday, we’re going to be all done and we’re going to be good mentally.”

Madison Jones on Desi Rodriguez’ thunderous second half dunk:  “It was crazy. I’ve seen Desi dunk on a lot of people but that was amazing, it got me off my feet … [I then noted how he didn’t sit down on bench for a long time] … I couldn’t, I wanted to run down the court, I wanted to run back here [to the locker room] for real, just seeing it from my point of view was crazy.”

Delgado, reacting to the same dunk: “He was crazy. I was mad because he missed the second one, but I passed the ball to him so that’s why I was more excited [laughs]. I was like oh my god, this guy is killin'”