Showing no signs of a setback, Seton Hall responded well to their loss to Michigan State and thoroughly outmatched Saint Louis en route to a commanding 83-66 win.
Looking like a team coming off a heavyweight bout, Seton Hall raced out to an 18-3 lead that featured a monster Romaro Gill block and alley-oop, two forced turnovers on defense, and a smooth Sandro Mamukelashvili three.
The first bit of Saint Louis pressure provoked a Kevin Willard timeout at 21-11 and the well-executed Quincy McKnight three that come out of it turned into a bit of foreshadowing.
A series of fouls made for a choppy end to the half, but Seton Hall drilled a trio of clutch threes after McKnight’s to supplement quite a few trips to the foul line.
Leading 46-31 out of the half after repelling the Billikens, the Pirates piled on seven straight points to total an 18-5 run before Saint Louis would answer to make it 53-32.
But at that point, the damage to Saint Louis was critical and Seton Hall never looked back: the Pirates maintained at least a 17-point lead for the final 19:22 to mark their largest road win since December of 2015.
The team responded really well coming off an emotional game. Let’s not forget the game ended late on Thursday night in Jersey, about 2.5 days ago minus travel. Seton Hall didn’t just race to their 18-3 lead but they did it in style.
The Pirates made clutch shots in a disjointed first half. Some of it was drawn up, some of it individual effort, but the four threes they hit starting with McKnight’s out of a timeout were four of just six field goals; for better or worse, it seemed the officials were quite liberal with their whistles — Gill and Ike Obiagu both had four by the second half’s first media break — and the officials even went to the monitor to review what somehow became Hasahn French’s second foul. That said, just like Michigan State had a pocket full of answers on Thursday, Seton Hall fended off early pressure very well on the road.
Myles Powell (26p, 6r, 3a) came on strong after not being forced to contribute over the first 15 minutes or so. The senior scored just five of his 26 points over the opening 14 minutes before scoring 21 through the under-eight media timeout in the second half, a 16:49 span. Powell’s first three of the game was a loooong one that ended a fairly threatening 6-0 Saint Louis run and audibly forced and “oooh!” out of the crowd before silencing them — that was just the appetizer.
Powell’s supporting cast stepped up to the plate. After playing well against Saint Louis last year, McKnight (12p, 4r, 2a) hit that big three early and played great defense on the perimeter; Myles Cale played within himself again and was an efficient 2-4 from three; Sandro (17p, 7r, 3a) stepped up in all aspects, especially with his fellow bigs in foul trouble.
This was a textbook case of a veteran group going up against a young team with roster turnover. Saint Louis, who lost four important seniors from a 7-man rotation, largely wilted under pressure while Seton Hall grew in power under adversity. The 7-0 run to start the second half essentially crushed the Billiken’s will and allowed the team to coast for most of the final 20 minutes.
Five Quotes from Kevin Willard on AM970
Opening words: “Watching him (PG Yuri Collins) on film, the biggest thing I told Ro’ (Gill), ‘Just let him understand, whether you foul him — let him understand what a real team looks like.’ I was really happy with the way we came out and executed our pick-and-roll defense, it got them off-balance. The start of the second half, we played nine straight possessions of straight zone and it got them standing.”
On Saint Louis’ multiple defensive looks: “The biggest difference from last year to this year is that we’ve seen everything now. You can’t throw anything at them. Last year the first time I saw the box-and-one, I hadn’t seen a box-and-one since grade school. I hadn’t. It was like how do you attack this, I had to go watch film after film after film because I knew we’d see it again. We should have attacked the 1-3-1 better in the first half even though we got good looks. Our big guys were open down low. Chris Mack used to run the 1-3-1 and we used to do pretty well against it because we’d seen it so much … The next time we see it I think we’ll attack it better.”
On Sandro, supporting cast: “He’s really good. He’s experienced. I just want him to be a little tighter with the basketball. He’s such a good passer that sometimes he just gets flimsy with it. He’s a heck of a player. He needs to rebound better. I thought him and Myles Cale would take big jumps and I thought Myles Cale played another really good game today.
“Shavar, Ant, and Q are playing really good right now. Just really steady making nice simple plays. Q making two threes and stepping in and shooting them. To me, he’s got to, he has the ability to do it. Everyone out there did a really good job.”
On fouls down low and when to sub them with fouls: “I thought Ro’ and Ike were big inside. Couple tough calls on ’em. I have to work with them when they go against a stronger, bigger guy they have to do a better job to not encroach on their space.
“I don’t know. I have a lot of confidence– I can throw Darnell (Brodie) down there too. I used to be against playing guys with two fouls but I think you should play guys with two fouls now. The way both Ike and Ro’ are playing, I have a lot of confidence in them. You can shift them in and out. Once Ike’s ankle gets better I’ll have more confidence in him.”
On this win being a nice rebound from Michigan State: “I talked about that on Friday with the team. Friday was a really good day for us, we bounced back really well. We had a really good lift, a good dummy offense day, we got a lot of shots up for guys who didn’t get many minutes. Then their attention and their focus to Saint Louis, it snapped. We watched the second half of the Michigan State game for about an hour and a half then we spent a good hour and a half on the court going over Saint Louis. Their attention to detail and my message to them the whole time– it was amazing how many texts and phone calls I got from people all over the country and how impressed they were with my guys. I told them ‘Guys, we can’t now go to Saint Louis and lay an egg and have everyone think they just played well because they were at home.’ I wanted everyone to know that we are a legit top-ten team. I believe that. I think we’re that good … When we came out those first five minutes, I knew we were going to win. I had no doubt from that point forward.”