Five Thoughts, Five Quotes: Powell breaks out in 88-79 win at Marquette

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No. 13 Seton Hall led by as many as 24 in an impressive 88-79 win over Marquette that saw Myles Powell snap out of a slump and Sandro Mamukelashvili have a career outing.

Five Thoughts (and one)

This was the Myles Powell-Markus Howard match-up I’ve been waiting for. I can’t speak for others, but for one reason or another, the two haven’t had collective outstanding games over the past two seasons — until today. And boy was it fun. Howard (37p, 6-9 3PT) scored his team’s first eight points before the first media timeout to get things started and hit his first six threes spanning into the second half.

Powell (28p, 5a, 2s) promptly answered the H.O.R.S.E. game invite as he broke out of a lengthy slump in all ways possible (more on this below) including a late steal in the lane during Marquette’s rally. Overall, it was an individual match-up treat to watch for fans and neutrals alike — I wouldn’t mind an encore at the Garden but could do without an officiating nightmare.

Seton Hall’s half court offense was tremendous. Where to start? From shooting 60-percent and assisting on 13 of 18 first half makes, to crisp ball reversals and general movement, the team played like it received a fair deal of WD-40 over its bye week as opposed to collecting the usual rust; 50-percent from three was the second best showing all year after the Oregon (51.9) game.

It goes without saying, but Myles Powell is back. Who knew all it would take was the Fiserv Forum raining down some boos on Howard’s senior day to turn things around? After a month-plus of rough play, Powell played like an All-American and had a PoTY-caliber game, answering his own optimism that this team will get even better heading into March. Given time and score, this was his best Big East game yet and best overall game since Oregon. Up next? Senior Night and Villanova — talk about timing.

It seemed like a big sequence at the time, and it held true in retrospect. Powell’s contested three from the wing with 2:04 remaining in the first half preceded him finding an open Myles Cale in transition for a follow-up that stopped a Marquette run that got them within 36-31. Prolonged by a pair of emphatic Romaro Gill dunks to start the second half, Seton Hall went on to build a 27-10 run and lead 63-31 when the dust settled, leaving a stunned Marquette team and crowd. The run wasn’t just opponent mistakes, it was Seton Hall-created and felt like a March coming out party — the team just forgot it’s a leap year.

Upping his own ante, Powell stopped another Marquette run mid-way through the second half. After stabilizing, a 10-0 Golden Eagles run shrank their deficit to 74-60, but Powell hit an arcing circus shot from where the scorers table and bench meet to go back up 17. It was a vintage Powell shot that may have been from the Trenton area code.

Sandro Mamukelashvili’s career performance was eclipsed by Powell. Sandro’s game-calling three heading into the final media timeout gave him a career-high 24 that he upped to 26 to go along with nine boards and three assists. Sandro scored 11 points late in the 27-10 run and scored seven points over the first five minutes of the game, coming on in dominant spurts of what I expect he’ll do for long stretches next season as a senior. As Powell predicted, Sandro is coming on at the right time.

As a bonus thought, Seton Hall’s road mentality has to be commended. That’s eight overall road wins and seven in the Big East (school record) to just one loss. Willard spoke on the team’s mentality below, but this should bode well for NET rankings and seeding, as well as an additional confidence booster away from Newark from here on out including a potentially massive trip to Omaha. Now 1.5 games up in the league, pending Creighton’s game at St. John’s on Sunday, the Jays have a lot of pressure to not slip up against the Red Storm or Georgetown before the clash in Nebraska. If they do trip up at St. John’s, Seton Hall could clinch a regular season title if they beat Villanova.

Postgame Quotes from AM570

How could I choose just five!?

Kevin Willard on road mentality: “Our toughness really shows on the road, it really does. We don’t get too rattled, we really stay in the flow of the game. I thought getting off to the start that we got really helped us. After the long [bye] week, we got into a great start and guys were in rhythm. … Overall, I just thought everyone played a really solid game. I loved the way that we passed the ball, it was the best we passed the ball all year.”

On Sandro’s aggressiveness, overall game: “Especially when he’s shooting with the confidence that he has does. We’re starting to see the maturation of a kid that should have confidence in the way he shoots. Because he works at it, he’s a good shooter. They went big and I couldn’t give him a break, I felt bad. … But he’s playing so well, and he’s rebounding the basketball too, I think that’s the biggest difference. With him and Ro’ or Ike out there, we’re big. We’re 7’2 and 6’10. I thought we gave some offensive rebounds up early in the first half, I thought we could have had 50-52 points in that first half.”

On Romaro Gill’s two slams to start second half: “They were doing a really good job of isolating our ball screens, keeping them on one side and really clogging up [passing lanes]. I thought that’s why we had so many assists, Myles and Q did a great job of getting guys open shots. They took away our lobs early. Coming out of halftime, just wanted for him going at the rim. Used Myles as a decoy and Q made a great read and threw it up to him. It gave us momentum early in the second half.”

On McKnight working clock late in game, losing momentum: “That’s alright though. Now they don’t have time at the end of the game. I’m going to take the air out of the ball every time. Especially on the road, I think that’s why we’ve been successful. Making teams work against you, is hard. And not quick shots. When you score 88 points and we shoot 53-percent for the game, I don’t think we lost any momentum to be honest with you.”

On Powell being unleashed: “Nah, I think he’s been like this the whole time on the road. He’s played phenomenal on the road. This is what he looked like at Butler, at Xavier, the only place he’s played bad is at Providence. If you watched this game, you watched two of the best players in America. Watching those two go at it– he even got those two great looks late in the game. Five assists, two steals, he’s just been phenomenal all year.”

On Shavar Reynolds Jr.’s glue guy play: “He’s doing a great job for us. Defensively, he’s our second-best defender behind Q on the ball. So when you’re playing a guy like [Collin] Gillespie or a guy like Markus [Howard], he’s a different defender than Q. He’s a much more physical defender. … He’s not just doing the defensive things, he’s playing really well offensively for us.”

On Villanova game coming up: “I got to watch the Providence-Nova game before the game. … This is going to be a tough senior night for me. I cry at the end of Braveheart, so I mean. These guys have really meant a lot to me, it’s a great senior class, senior nights are always hard but if we get that win, it gives us 14 wins going into Creighton. I’m going to enjoy watching those come out, watching those guys, I’m going to really enjoy– I keep telling the team ‘Enjoy the precious present. Don’t look forward, don’t look back. Enjoy this moment that you’re having.’ Because I’ve played Marquette before where we have 4,000 people in the building. Now everywhere we go is sold-out, we’re a big draw. … That’s what more than anything what I’ve enjoyed about this group’s toughness is that we’re doing it in big-time atmospheres.”