Seton Hall cruised to victory over Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday night perhaps easier than expected given what the team had lost over the summer and the quality of opposition they were faced with.
Despite the exterior doubt, the Hall showed no signs of faltering despite some first half jitters and actually looked much better than they did at Walsh Gym against Dartmouth this time last season.
Let’s start with the topic of the hour: Point guard play. In retrospect, it’s not very surprising that a graduate transfer high-major point guard would be more than keen on getting his teammates involved in his first game. Madison Jones wow’d the crowd on several occasions by slinging Whitehead-esque passes across the lane, some of which came after impressive defensive pickpockets.
Kevin Willard revealed that he had been rolling with Khadeen Carrington at the ‘one’ until the last week or so. Even the untrained basketball eye can tell Carrington is much more effective at two-guard while distribution just comes natural to Jones. It will be intriguing to see how he develops as the season inches toward Jevon Thomas’ return date.
I’m not quite sure how good Seton Hall’s defense was, at least on the perimeter. FDU shot just 31% (9-29) from deep, but they had a ton of open looks that just missed, especially in the first half. If this was by design, that makes sense, but FDU was 36% from three last season and their best shooter in Earl Potts Jr (65-161, 40.4%) was out injured. Keep an eye on this.
This may look like a Kevin Willard-coached hockey team at times. Willard had already used nine players before the first under-12 timeout, which looks to be his rotation for now. Veer Singh, Mike Nzei, Myles Powell and Rashed Anthony will all have important roles to play off the bench as a specialist, effective rebounder, impact offense, and backup center, respectively. Willard was close to making a line change (five subs at once) a few times last night.
The Walsh Gym atmosphere was invigorating. The gym was absolutely electric over the first ten minutes and nearly exploded after Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington came close to posterizing defenders in the second half. FDU coach Greg Herenda, a former assistant under George Blaney, called the game a “privilege”, “tough environment”, and said the Hall “really made it their building”.
Seton Hall wasn’t 100-percent healthy last night. Ish Sanogo had not practiced in two weeks (knee) prior to the game and Willard said he played a little more than he should have (29 minutes). Angel Delgado had sprained his ankle last Friday and had only practiced once — Willard said he will rest today and isn’t sure if he’ll play Sunday while Delgado smiled and told media that he would be fine for Central Connecticut.
Five quotes (and one)
Khadeen Carrington on the banner unveiling: “I got chills. Last night we watched a bunch of clips from last season and it gave me chills. We came out to prove last season wasn’t a fluke and start the season off right.”
Madison Jones on his first game: “You can’t really ask for more. You have a great big down low, you have two wings that are amazing who can score the ball at will, then you have Ish [Sanogo] out there doing everything right, always in the right position. It’s amazing to be able to play with great players like that, the assists just come easy for me.
Jones on being quiet and focused on the court: “[laughs] Coach always wants me to speak up more. I feel like I do a pretty good job talking to the players, I’m not always the loudest like you said, but I feel I do a good job talking to the players in the huddle, keeping the team together. Everybody leads in a different way, we have players who talk a lot more, play with a lot more emotion as you can see [chuckles, hints at Angel], and we need that, but I just try to keep the poise because we’re going to need that also, playing in loud gyms and stuff like that.”
Kevin Willard on Carrington stepping up in Whitehead’s place: “Khadeen played in the BET, he had 27, 24 and didn’t play that well against Villanova… He had been playing like this for the second half of the season. All these guys understand and respect what Isaiah did for them last season. If you talk to them, they know it and they’ll say it. With that respect, they’re not waiting — they understand the responsibility to step up their games. They’re not looking forward to it, trying to do it, they know as a group they lost a really great player and [also] a high energy guy in Derrick [Gordon] and everybody has to take a step up. That’s what I like about this group’s attitude, they’re not like ‘hey I’ve got to do it because of Isaiah’, they know they all have to do it.
Willard on Isaiah being back on campus for the game tonight: “I’m trying to get rid of him, he’s up in my office more than he was before [laughs]. We went through a very tough decision in the summer, me and his mom were trying to get him to go, he was trying to stay. He loves it here, these are his guys … He comes up here, these are his friends. When you win a championship the way we did, you have a bond that lasts forever. You never forget those moments. These guys love being around him, they love hearing the NBA stories. We’ve always been a tight-knit group, for the last three years honestly, it’s great having him around to let the recruits know ‘look what happens when you play here’, not only do you get drafted, but you play pretty darn good before he got a concussion.
Willard on Myles Powell’s debut: “I haven’t seen Myles Powell miss four shots, yet. Every time he shoots, I think it’s going in. When he missed the first one, I turned to Sha’, I couldn’t believe it.”