HALL IN: Pirates continue to evolve in 69-55 team win over Marquette

Wendell Cruz/FinishFirstPhotos

NEWARK, N.J. — Based on the crowd, the intensity, and the way Seton Hall took care of Marquette 69-55, one would be right to think we’re in March.

Narrator: it’s only early January.

Mid-way through the second half as the hosts were deadlocked at 45 with budding rival Marquette, Myles Powell displayed some poor body language after one of his nine missed threes and an empty drive to the rim.

Before checking out of the game during a pair of Golden Eagles free throws, sophomore Jared Rhoden encouraged Powell on the block after his rare frustration.

Powell would score 23, albeit on 22 shots, but Rhoden’s gesture symbolized Seton Hall’s supporting cast helping out Powell yet again since his concussion at Rutgers last month en route to improving to 4-0 in Big East play for just the second time (1992-93).

The Pirates’ second team of guards — Shavar Reynolds Jr. and Anthony Nelson — would go on to score or assist on nine of the 11 points during the team’s game-breaking 11-0 run to solidify a massive showing from the team’s bench.

“My teammates are always trying to pick me up,” said Myles Powell.

“Whenever my head is hanging, or they know I need to get a bucket to get going, they always seem to find me. My coaches were telling me to pick my head up, I have a good supporting cast. This is what I came back to school for. I love these guys.”

From Romaro Gill (10p, 6r) more than cancelling out Theo John, to the aforementioned Reynolds and Nelson, to Quincy McKnight slinging 6+ assists for the fifth time in the last six games, to 14 points and 9 boards from Ike Obiagu and Tyrese Samuel off the bench — the list of contributing factors goes on.

“I feel like everybody was locked in,” said Powell of his team outscoring Marquette’s bench 25-7.

“Seton Hall is playing our best basketball right now and that’s why we’re on a six-game winning streak. When you have a group of guys where everybody wants to buy-in and it doesn’t matter how it’s getting done or who’s doing it as long as it’s getting done and everybody is winning, that’s when you find yourself on top and that’s how our train is rolling right now.”

But for me, the x-factor has got to be Shavar Reynolds Jr. (5p, 3r, 2a, +21, 18 mins)

After an early salvo from long range, Markus Howard (27p, 8-22 fg) was held scoreless for a key six-minute stretch in the first half during which Reynolds deflected a pass at mid-court for an easy bucket.

If you’re looking for an early momentum-changer, that was it.

“First, I want to say about time Shavar guarded somebody else like that,” joked Powell as he sat down in the post-game media lounge.

“I get that treatment everyday in practice. To see him come out and make someone else work like that, I’m happy for him. I feel like he’s starting to make a name for himself.”

“When we lock in defensively, we’re one of the best teams in the country,” said Reynolds, who led the defensive charge today.

“Even though I was guarding Markus and not letting him touch it, my teammates were still doing all the rotations– I didn’t get to see it, but I just knew the ball wasn’t going in the rim. It was a good collective effort.”

In addition to Howard’s first half drought, he was also held to just two points during a 12-minute span in the second half when Seton Hall pushed ahead.

Reynolds could have easily drawn several moving screens on Marquette due to his glue-like defense of Howard but he also contributed on offense, nailing a big three during the 11-0 run and pulling down two timely offensive rebounds.

“That’s one of the things I want to do, I want to be a game-changer,” said Reynolds.

“If I can affect [the game] offensively or defensively, whatever way I can affect it, I want to try to do that. That’s my goal every time I check in: How can I change this game?”

And change the game he did.

That’s what’s particularly impressive about the Pirates’ 14-point win: the way in which they did it.

5-21 from three and 14-26 is far from flashy, but just six turnovers — one being a tie-up — and great second half defense goes a long way.

What does that say about the DNA of this team?

“These guys know who they are,” said Kevin Willard.

“I think that’s the one thing that I’ve been harping on over the last month, it’s the fact that we still are a team that needs to defend at a high level every night to have a chance to win. We’re just not built to outscore people.

“There’s times when MP gets going and he’s making threes left and right and we can outscore people, but on a daily basis, we are a tough, hard-nosed team that needs to defend to win games, and I think these guys are embracing that and they understand that.”

“We’re for real,” added Powell of what it meant for them to win in this fashion. “The team that you guys projected to win this conference, that is the team that is starting to come around.

“I want everyone to realize that we still don’t have Sandro [Mamukelashvili]. We’re winning six games in a row and everybody thinks that we’re [all that]– we’re still not even at our peak yet because we still don’t have one of our best players on our team.

“We’re only going to keep getting better and better from here.”