Five Thoughts: No. 12 Seton Hall squeaks out 78-71 win at shorthanded Georgetown

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No. 10 Seton Hall rode 34 points from Myles Powell, ten assists from Quincy McKnight, and eight blocks from Romaro Gill to take out a shorthanded Georgetown 78-71.

Seton Hall (17-5) improves to 9-1 in Big East play ahead of their trip to Villanova on Saturday. Powell is now averaging 27 ppg over his last seven games against the Hoyas, dating back to his sophomore season.

The Hall jumped out to a 16-0 lead and led by ten at the half but a feisty Georgetown team playing without Mac McClung kept much of the second half within a couple possessions and got as close as four with 4:16 to play before a wild, off-balanced Powell bucket preceded a clutch fast-break lay-up from Jared Rhoden (12p, 9r) to effectively ice the game.

Five Thoughts (and one)

To some degree Georgetown’s fight should be credited, but Seton Hall struggled to put away an over-matched and underhanded opponent. The Hoyas came back from a 17-point deficit at St. John’s on Sunday, so they had one less day of rest and played that game without Mac McClung too, so they were at a pretty big physical disadvantage tonight. That said, they fought tooth and nail and were an ill-advised Omer Yurtseven missed hook over Romaro Gill away from being down just two in the final stages of the game. Seton Hall was dominant for the first and last four minutes of the first half but were sloppy in the second to the tune of eight turnovers and 19 second chance points for the Hoyas.

It wasn’t a great game for Quincy McKnight (8p, 10a, 21 mins), but he was great when he was on the floor. McKnight sprayed six assists in the first ten minutes and then gave the team some instant offense after returning to the floor from foul trouble at 61-57 with 7:47 left and the team struggling a little bit on offense. McKnight was already first in the Big East in assist rate and that will only be be solidified with a highly efficient performance in 21 minutes tonight. His assist to Gill after he checked in late plus the dagger three-ball from the wing were huge plays. Based on league games only, McKnight may have the best assist rate of any major conference player.

Like McKnight, Romaro Gill had an odd game. Gill (6p, 6r, 8b) was a little unsure on the offensive end, but his six boards and eight blocks were game-changing although the team struggled on the defensive glass yet again, giving up 17 offensive boards and 29 second chance points. Sandro pulled down 12 boards, Rhoden added nine, and Powell grabbed seven, but Georgetown missed 45 total shots, so those numbers might be a little skewed; the team is 279th (69.5) in defensive rebounding percentage. It seems like Kevin Willard and his players still need to figure out how to rebound when Gill tries to block everything like a volleyball player protecting the net, but they’re certainly well-aware of the trade-off.

We could see the Myles Cale-Jared Rhoden-Sandro Mamukelashvili shuffle coming from a mile away. Cale lost his seemingly cement-reinforced starters spot to Sandro while Rhoden shifted to small forward, to great effect. Rhoden alternated threes with Powell early and Sandro grew in confidence and looks nearly 100-percent just three games since returning from injury. A victim of the shuffling is Tyrese Samuel, who saw single digit minutes for the second game in a row and just the third time in league play.

Seton Hall-Villanova won’t be the single-digit ranking clash it could have been, but it’ll still be a huge one. After losing on a buzzer-beater at Butler tonight, Villanova is now two games behind the Pirates, who have a major opportunity to snap their 26-year drought and go three games up on their nearest competitor. The Wildcats have only lost three consecutive games once since Big East realignment after the 2012-13 season. Saturday afternoon. Fox. Buckle up.

It took me this long into the season to realize 8:30 tips are all planned to start at 8:45. I figured this was the case due to the in-studio highlights and preview segments and seeing Prudential Center with 8:40~ tip times way in advance, but it became even more obvious tonight. Villanova-Butler went way over on FS1 due to a rain delay (yes, really), but the tip still went ahead at 8:45 (on FS2, but not on FSGo), so you missed the entire 16-0 run if you were locked to FS1. The slight false advertising/misleading times seems to be an American thing (Devils games start 8 minutes past, the Super Bowl teams weren’t even on the field at 6:30, etc.) — but it can be frustrating nonetheless.

Post-game quotes from Kevin Willard on AM970

On Myles Powell’s big night, step in the right direction: “What I like what he did early, we watched film the other day, I’m like ‘You’re not working off your shot.’ He had three screens early in the Xavier game where he’s not curling and turning and looking to shoot the basketball. I said ‘You’ve got to remember, you’re one of the best shooters to ever play college basketball. You have to work off your shot. Then you can get to the rim and do all your stuff. Even if you miss your first five, you’ve got to turn and get off your shot.’ I thought the first couple [tonight] he really turned into and made up his mind he was going to shoot the basketball and it really got him going.”

On line-up changes, new starting lineup being good: “I don’t think that’s going to be a set in stone unit, I really don’t. Looking at Villanova from a defensive standpoint, I think I’m going to need Myles Cale out there. Especially on the road the way they play there. I don’t think anything is set in stone, but I needed a jump-start. I needed Sandro to play these minutes and be out there. He’s not quite comfortable offensively, but he’s plus-22. The things he does offensively and the ways he passes the basketball, it gives us an added dimension that someone else can get off the dribble.”

On the bench getting minutes: “The bench is going through it a little bit because they’re not getting enough time to do anything great. They’ve all got that look on their face–we’re in the middle of February– the game is a little different, faster right now, the guys that have played major minutes are in such a better flow. I need to get Sandro back out there no matter what and I need to get Tyrese [Samuel] on the floor. With all the timeouts [in the second half], I’ve said it a million times, it’s almost impossible to sub [because of so many breathers].”

On McKnight’s efficient game: “I hate to say it, but I think the foul trouble was almost a blessing in disguise. It forced me to only play him 22 minutes and my goal was 20-25 and the way he was playing, I’m not sure I would have done it. I need someone to be able to defend the basketball at a high level with Myles out there because I can’t have him defend it. We’re a little limited with what we can run with Shavar [Reynolds Jr.] but on the defensive end he gives me so much with Myles out there. Q was great, I thought the pass to Ro’ late in the game was more important than anything.”

On Romaro Gill having an improved game: “Ro’s not sick anymore. He had the flu for the last two games. He was really sick at Xavier, they didn’t really tell me how sick he was. He was battling what I was going through with a little vertigo with inner ear stuff. … We’ve got to get him touches. I’ve got to get Sandro on pick-and-rolls where Sandro can throw it up to him. Him setting pick-and-rolls is limiting how many times he can touch the ball.”

On Georgetown’s fight: “Pat [Ewing], for being as undermanned as they are, their first five is really good. Really good. … That’s a veteran group that has won games and battles. Sometimes players play a little better when they know no one is coming in.”

Funny, when asked if he had anything to add: “We’re staying here [D.C.] tonight. We’re spending the night because we have the best bus driver in college basketball by far. Rob is the best. I have to stay up, I’m in the front seat so I have to stay awake and talk to him the whole time. We have great conversations–I’ll miss the conversation even though we’ll have it tomorrow. But I’m like an old lady at 2:30 in the morning and we’re going down I-95, Rob is going 65, he does the speed limit, and we have trucks zipping by us. Alright that’s all I’ve got.”