Mentally tough Seton Hall scrapes past Butler, 76-75

Wendell Cruz/FinishFirstPhotos

Newark, N.J. — This was easily a game that Seton Hall could have lost. But they found the slightest of extra gears to take care of Butler 76-75 not far from midnight and just days after falling at DePaul while on the cusp of a national ranking.

Even last year’s senior laden team was known to capitulate in games they shouldn’t, but this year’s group bent but didn’t break in a big morale-centric game that if lost, could have let some cold seawater into Seton Hall’s Big East bow.

It started with a flurry of six turnovers before the first media break and then it happened again out of the half, leaving Seton Hall looking like a team that just earned a new ranking, not lost one from just beyond their grasps.

The team’s offensive willpower mirrored the largely lethargic (but ultimately engaged) Prudential Center crowd during an 8:45 weeknight tip.

“We feel like the turnovers hurt us a lot,” said Myles Powell, who put up a game-high 31.

“If you go back and watch the game, Coach was saying the turnovers were hurting us a lot. Every time we turned it over, they came back and were either scoring in transition or we were giving up a three. The goal is to always get a shot attempt up.”

But in a vacuum, most coaches will opt for a strong defense and an offense that can be coached into action, rather than a defense that doesn’t want to give the effort.

That dynamic played out tonight, with Seton Hall ultimately holding Butler to a late-inflated 38-percent from the field and just 5-of-20 from three. Ten of the Hall’s 16 turnovers came in the first few minutes of each half.

“Coming out, we’ve just got to get in our offense more and settle down and pick the defense apart,” said Powell. “We come out sluggish at times, but we know our defense will make up for it.”

“We don’t let missed shots get under our skin,” added Quincy McKnight, who put six assists together with ten points and another lunch pail defensive effort.

“That’s a big thing Coach has been harping on all year. We’re a young team so we’re going to make young mistakes but at the same time you’ve got to have that experience to bounce back and not worry about the mistakes made on the last possession and just focus. That’s what we’ve been doing, just executing.”

The Bulldogs scored 16 in the final 4:30 including an unimportant three at the horn that followed a pair of sound Seton Hall possessions to snuff out Butler, one of which included an NBA style press break that was drawn up on the fly and executed without a dribble, but finished with a dunk from Sandro Mamukelashvili.

“We’ve been picking him up, we’re brothers,” said Powell of Sandro, who had a rough go of it late in Chicago.

“It doesn’t matter who does it. The story about us is we never talk down about each other. We’re brothers, we’re in this together. The last two days in practice we’ve just been picking him up. We got back (from Chicago), watched film, and we came together as a family.”

On a night where Seton Hall had just enough fuel to send everyone Jersey-based home happy, it was an unlikely fringe player in freshman center Darnell Brodie who made the extra difference on top of a mentally tough outing from the team as a whole.

Having seen just 12 minutes prior to tonight in a count not worthy of appearing on Seton Hall’s KenPom page, Brodie scored three, pulled in six boards, and even swatted a shot in 19 minutes of bullish work in the paint.

“Brodie has been big, all year in practice he has been battling with (our) bigs. He’s a big body, we knew they had the big guy over there and he was going to come and be big for them on the boards Ro’ being out with his injury,” explained Powell.

“We were going to need someone else to step up and Brodie took it upon himself and said he was going to step up for the team today and he did.”

Sounds like Brodie might have carved some sort of role for himself, at least until Romaro Gill is back. Gill is an extreme doubt for Marquette on Saturday but questionable for Providence on Tuesday.

“I told Darnell after the DePaul game, I said, ‘Darnell, you gotta go down there and throw your body around against (Joey) Brunk,” said Kevin Willard.

“And Darnell has such a great attitude, he brings it every day to practice. He doesn’t look like a joyous, happy kid — he’s always got the same look on his face — but he’s had a great attitude.

“It’s been tough for him not to play, but he said he was ready and he played phenomenal.”