Five Takeaways: Seton Hall digs deep in resilient 80-70 road win at Xavier for seventh-straight

Seton Hall came back from a ten-point second half deficit and used a big night from Myles Powell (25 pts, 8 asts, 6 rebs) as they once again flexed their mental toughness in an 80-70 comeback win over Xavier on the road.

Five Thoughts

The Romaro Gill experiment started off poorly, then it took a turn for the good before potentially deciding the game. Pre-game, Kevin Willard told Dave Popkin on AM970 that “obviously Romaro Gill will have to get more time out there” after not playing at all against St. John’s. Gill (4 pts, 5 rebs, 4 blks, 3 stls) saw the court before the first media timeout but the Hall was shredded to the tune of 18 first half points from Zach Hankins before the tide turned.

Following a Willard timeout after a 10-2 Xavier run put them up 56-46 in the second half Gill went on a rampage, registering an alley-oop, three steals, and two blocks in 2:16 of action en route to Seton Hall cutting their deficit to 58-57. It turned out to be the turning point of the game as the Pirates dominated the closing six-plus minutes, closing on a 20-7 surge over the closing 6:26.

Man, is this team enjoyable to watch for their resiliency. Donny Marshall hit it on the head in the first half after Myles Powell put his head down and scored five points late in the half to keep his team around, but we already knew this. With Shavar Reynolds Jr. and Gill featuring late in the second half during crunch time and Reynolds Jr. running the point after Powell rebounded his own free throw miss, I thought how fun it is to watch this team fight at times as it’s truly a team effort. How about this: all ten players to see the court also saw the scoring column; Willard used ten guys ten minutes into the first half.

On that note, I would recommend watching this team and tryING not to get stressed when they are listing or not doing that well. Seriously. I know there is some trauma in the fan mindset from past experiences, but this team has proved us wrong again and again. I thought it was just sound bite stuff, but Quincy McKnight (4 pts, 4 asts) looked me in the eye post-St. John’s and explained how they don’t mind playing down. It’s so true. Seton Hall came back from 56-46 with 12 to play after an up-and-down first half display on the road. Gutsy (again).

Credit to Kevin Willard’s half time adjustments. Hankins scored just two points in the second half after flushing 18 through the rim in the first.  It was a conscious effort to shade toward the rim more in the second half. More on this in the quotes below. 

How about Myles Powell’s all-around game? He really carried Seton Hall tonight, adding eight assists and six boards to go along with a game-high 25 points. When Powell puts his head down like he did in the closing minutes of the first half when the Hall was really up against the ropes, he’s almost unstoppable. 

Five Quotes from Kevin Willard on AM970

On the team’s comeback/resiliency in the second half:I think the biggest thing, our pick and roll coverage was something we’ve actually gotten much better at. It was the poorest I’ve ever seen it (in the first half). We were trying to take away Naji (Marshall) and Quentin (Goodin) and by doing that we were opening up the court way too much. The biggest thing I told these guys, we have to make sure we have to stop the rolls. And then Romaro Gill comes in and then all of a sudden he (Gill) blocks a couple shots, you can see the difference when guys are going down (the court). This team, they show me something every day. That was a great comeback on the road at a packed house.”

More on resiliency:Quincy McKnight is such a good defensive leader for us. We got down ten and I called a timeout and of course I was being so positive and such a loving coach at the time, Q kind of took over the huddle and was kind of like ‘We’ve been in this situation before, we’re only down 10, everyone just relax.’ He kind of relaxed me a little bit. Q, from a defensive standpoint has become a really good leader on the floor.”

On Powell’s eight assists: “That’s something I’ve been harping on him a little bit. The amount of attention he gets, guys are open, and guys have to be ready to make plays. I thought we had a really bad stretch of offense from the 16 to 12-minute mark … That got us down ten then we got back to passing and when we pass the basketball and take care of the basketball we’re good offensively and everyone stepped up and played big-time roles.”

On winning the first game in a stretch of four road games in five: “It’s big. Road wins are hard and when your only game is Butler, you’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity you get … I was a little worried about us emotionally, I think that’s why we came out a little flat after an emotional win the other night and we kind of kept grinding away. The biggest thing, we’ve never let the leads get out of hand. We’ve always found a way. We came out of the timeout and got a big dunk for Ro’ to get it to eight and I thought that was a big breath of fresh air for everybody.”

On Romaro Gill, second team’s effort before huge: “It really was. That unit has been playing really well in practice. For the first time all year, their segment is out there winning now and that wasn’t happening– they would just get blown every. It’s a group that’s starting to get it a little bit. I can’t put them all out there at one point because we’re not there yet, but it’s a unit that really believes they can be out there and I have great confidence in that unit.”