Five Thoughts, Five Quotes: A closer look at Seton Hall’s heart-filled win over No. 22 Texas Tech

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NEW YORK CITY — Seton Hall looked like a complete team on Thursday night in a passion-filled win over Texas Tech in what resembled a second round NCAA tournament game.

Five thoughts:

Seton Hall won without relying on Angel Delgado… sort of. His stats (12p, 5r) aren’t impressive at surface level and the big man only took eight shots, good enough for fourth on the team. Kind of odd for a preseason All-American candidate, right? Credit to Texas Tech: Norense Odiase & Co. were able to double him quickly, didn’t allow him position on the low block, but Delgado was the lynch pin for an inside-out approach that Kevin Willard was very fond of post-game. Let’s not forget that Angel also recorded three of each steals, assists and blocks.

Just how good is Desi Rodriguez becoming? A lot of us, myself included, are still stuck in the mindset of viewing him as a high volume shooter that takes low percentage shots, but the stats don’t back that up so far — outside of the Brooklyn games; Desi is 11-of-19 from three and hasn’t missed more than one free throw in a game. We may be seeing more “Seton Hall is X-X when Desi Rodriguez scores Y” stats as the season goes on.

I’ll say it again: the offense was pretty darn good. I harped on it in my preview, I mentioned it in my rapid reaction, but now I have the cold hard facts — and they’re impressive. 1.24 points per possession, 60-percent assist rate, 55-percent from three, 41-percent offensive rebounding. The first two numbers are the best this season outside of Fairleigh Dickinson and NJIT, respectively. It’s safe to say Texas Tech is a lot better defensively than both of those two teams.

Kevin Willard shortened his bench tonight. Only 35 minutes were played off the bench, although they were a fairly impactful 35. In the most anonymous but helpful showing of the year, Eron Gordon hit two corner threes in the first half, while Mike Nzei scored seven and added four boards in a familiar sixth-man role while Ish Sanogo logged the heavier minutes of the two. The altered rotation was surely due to the “bye week” rest allowing Willard to do so, but stiffer competition in a neutral venue isn’t the best time to rely on freshman, see: Myles Cale’s first half learning experience when he missed a fast break opportunity and was lost on a double screen the next defensive possession.

Seton Hall upped it’s free-throw game when it counted. After a familiar 6-of-11 in the first half, they made seven of their first seven over the first five minutes of the second half en route to a 12-15 mark in the second period. One of those missed free throws made my game story. I would want Carrington, Rodriguez, and Powell to take free throws down the stretch of any clutch game, in that order.

Five Quotes from Kevin Willard:

Willard on how the team isn’t relying on Delgado anymore: “He’s become such a great passer. Defensively he’s become someone we can depend on and we don’t have to hide him. We still throw it to him a ton, but I think he understands that he has so many weapons around him that eventually teams are going to have to stop double-teaming him. I think he’s playing better than he did last year. I think the guys around him are working with him to make it easier for him.”

On Rodriguez elevating his play: “One of the biggest things that I’ve seen, he’s become a lot more consistent with his effort, his practice. When he’s passing the ball the way he did early on, it just gives us another guy to make plays. I think he has really elevated, he has worked hard, but most importantly he has become a very consistent worker. Just like all of these guys, they’re all workers. They’re all talented, but I think the biggest talent that they all have is that they all work, they all put the work in and work on their games.”

On what has been learned thus far this season & takeaways from tonight: “I’m learning a lot. Even though I didn’t play the freshmen a lot tonight, I’m getting confidence in every one of my players. But we have a long way to go … We have a lot left [to do], and the good thing about this team is they’re going to get a lot better. Defensively we’re going to get better, and I only see us getting better offensively as we evolve.

“I think the biggest thing, when I watched them on film, I thought this is one of the best teams we’re going to see all year. Just from a depth standpoint, [and] I think Evans is an elite guard right now, what he can do. I think the biggest thing moving forward, when we see teams that are deep, teams that play with a lot of motion that we can play with them and hang with them.”

On whether dropping out of the top 25 was a focal point during days off: “I don’t think so. The biggest thing we talked about all week was getting better spacing on offense. I really harped on these guys on that. Deeno and I watched a lot of film. I think he was a little down, thinking he wasn’t playing well. I had to show him he was playing great and really starting to evolve as a point guard. We had a one-point loss. A guy hit a tough shot on us. Then we bounced back against a good Vandy team. For me, we have a big week, let’s focus on Texas Tech. For the most part we focused on us, we didn’t do a whole lot of Texas Tech. That’s something I’ve done differently the past two years on bye weeks is getting us to focus on us.”

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  • VinBick

    The coach talking so much about “working” is a bit of a concern. Is he saying that his kids were not working hard enough to be successful until this season? Just a thought.

    Deeno does not appear to be playing particularly well. Powell, a soph, was the go to guy down the stretch and he produced. At times, Carrington gets himself in trouble and the ball is stripped from him by opponents. Other times, he drives in an out of control fashion-a la the Rhode Island loss as a case in point- and a couple of times again, last night. The coach seems to be trying to pump him up with high praise, but the tape sessions mentioned have to speak to the facts at hand.

    One item worth noting here, too. Desi is playing consistent, high level ball. His demeanor on the court is making those around him better and better.

    Angel kept a lot of the Texas Tech bigs busy which also helped others around him perform well last night.

    An unexpected win on Sunday will return the Pirates to the Top 25 where they belong. Go Pirates!

    • PadrePirate

      I, too, am still concerned about KC’s play at the point. We all knew this would be a work-in-progress having him play out of position, but I hope he still progresses. The 2H did surprisingly well, because we are such a multi-faceted team. But PG remains a weak spot, IMO. I’d love to see KC work up from 3 to 6 A’s per game. Both he and Dez still sometimes take ill-advised one man possessions. That said, this year’s team is so well-rounded, and the overall assist rate was high.

      • VinBick

        The point play by Eron Gordon is a pleasant surprise and when Walker returns, the pressure will be lessoned on Carrington having to run the point.

        Love the play thus far of all of our bench. They really help at both ends of the court, unlike the last couple of years when there was a big drop off with some of the backup players–Anthony, Soffer, et al. MuMu, Gordon, & Cale as seven through nine are contributing quality minutes beyond our first six regulars. The rest that our starters get in the first half is key to the strong play we are seeing in the second half of games. Our guys out-hustled the deep Texas Tech squad down the stretch.

        • PadrePirate

          Interesting take above by kjs on Khadeen and the PG situation. I love the depth all around on this team.

      • ThePirateFan

        I wouldn’t expect KC to become even a “good” big east PG by March. He’s not a PG, forcing him to run the show doesn’t transform his skill set. His skill set is what it is, he’s never had a good right hand. And that’s OK. He and the offense will be fine. The team will be fine, and once SHU gets into the offense his job is done and he can play like a true 2. And he’s a top notch two guard, so he’ll get his.

        Add in the fact that they lack other options and his value to the team is tremendous. It’s really not a knock on him, you just can’t expect him to contribute the way you’d have expected a Theodore or Copeland to contribute.

  • Andrew Herbst

    I was impressed with our free throw shooting last night. Hopefully that continues. Love how Desi is playing. I hope Khadeem learns to take his time and slow down. He tends to rush and pick up his dribble. I liked how Angel is distributing more and getting some steals. All-around game.

  • kjs2009

    1- Focus on team success is propelling this team. Earlier this year, it was clear our stars were trying to ‘get theirs’ such as keeping Delgado in late in cupcake games to build a double double streak. Teams were gearing up for Delgado knowing he was trying to get double doubles, which has been keeping his stats down. The team has seemed to move on from this, and yesterday Angel moved the ball extremely well and our team caught fire. They need to feed him on every offensive possession, we consistently get good shots when he gets a touch.

    2- Fans need to be patient with Khadeen at PG. The goal is that he is a great PG by March, and as long as he shows improvement each game he will get there. Remember last year when people were critical of Madison Jones, a much less skilled player, and he ended up being a key contributor on an NCAA team. He played great defense yesterday and scored some big points. He is not going to be Maurice Watson with 10 APG, he is a different player. Also, Eron Gordon is earning his minutes (he reminds me of Madison Jones). Also, I think people might be expecting too much Jordan Walker when he returns, but he he will get a chance to get limited experience during some of the remaining games before BE play.

    3- Ish’s return to the starting lineup has been a big boost. This team’s identity over the past 3 years has been great defense and rebounding, and I think it is smart to try to get this back, that’s our foundation. Ish brings that.

    4- Can we please develop an in-bounds play?

    • Bob Murphy

      Re: in bounds play. Preferably something that has someone running to the middle of the court rather than the sideline. We walked into several traps in the 2nd half last night.

  • PadrePirate

    Some big games this weekend for the BE: Creighton at Gonzaga and Xav vs Cinci… before the Pirates upset Lville at home to ice the cake. GO HALL!

  • PadrePirate

    Really bad stretch at the end of 1H. Sloppy ball handling and 3 missed bunnies. Two KC drives under pressure kept us in the lead.