South Orange — It was a choppy start, but No. 12 Seton Hall went on to score their most points in a season opener since 2000-01 in a 105-71 win over Wagner at Walsh Gym.
Tapping into their superior depth early on, an early Seton Hall line change saw the Pirates race out to 22-12 lead before a flurry of fouls and whistled bogged the game’s flow down.
In the double bonus just eight minutes into a tightly-called game, Seton Hall was then whistled for seven straight fouls over 2:12 of game block, squashing any immediate chance they had to blow Wagner out of the water early.
With their lead down to 39-32 late in the half, a well-worked passing sequence set up Ike Obiagu for a monster flush that jump-started an important 13-5 run to close the half; the run featured several big blocks, a pickpocket and slam from Shavar Reynolds Jr., plus a no-look behind-the-back assist from Sandro Mamukelashvili, Isaiah Whitehead style.
Carrying all the momentum and with Walsh Gym whipped into a frenzy heading into the half, Seton Hall had to exert more energy than they would have liked to put Wagner to bed.
The Seahawks stayed within a shout and cut their deficit to 70-58 with ten to play before none other than Myles Powell converted on a tough four-point play from the wing to get a 13-2 run going that would essentially ice the game heading into the under-eight media timeout before the Hall’s lead ballooned to 30-plus in the closing minutes with Wagner waving the white flag.
Five Takeaways (and one):
I’d think the edge will go to Seton Hall most games this year when the foul count is high, but not if they shoot in the 60s from the line. Surprisingly, Myles Powell missed two free throws and guys like Romaro Gill, Obiagu, and McKnight (7-7) led the charge from the stripe in the early goings. That said, the Pirates have as much depth as anyone and should be able to outlast most opponents if it comes to a slugfest.
Myles Powell played within himself. He didn’t try to force too much even when Seton Hall was under a little pressure and scored 27 on 22 attempts, one of which was a missed full court heave at the first half buzzer. His four-point play to help put the game to bed along with a nifty first-half bounce pass assist were his two major highlights, for me.
Typically offense gets a crowd going, but it seemed like the crowd reached its boiling points via big defensive plays tonight. While Gill had the edge at center against Misericordia, it was Obiagu who overcame two early fouls to really set the tone — on both ends of the court. He flushed home countless alley-oops and swatted three shots early on. Shavar Reynolds Jr. also played an unsung role down the stretch in the first half but Obiagu stole the show. Seton Hall will need to do a better job of stringing defensive stops together however.
How about the Jared Rhoden explosion? The sophomore came on strong and helped put Wagner away by scoring seven straight points and nine of his 12 points in the second half. Rhoden looks set to be in that first substitution off the bench early in games along with Romaro Gill and the most encouraging sign was him sinking an empty three from the corner on his first shot after struggling from the perimeter last year.
Someone is going to have to keep track of alley-oops this year. Over at least the last season, Seton Hall has officially kept track of who leads the team in dunks in their media guides at games — that may need to be upgraded to an alley-oop count if this trend keeps up. It helps when you have a pair of seven-footers, but they weren’t the only guys playing above the rim tonight.
This game was closer than the final margin indicates. As indicated, Wagner was within 12 with ten to play with a majority of the game being played within the 8-14 point range. They weren’t able to put Wagner away before that for multiple reasons, but perhaps a better opponent would have taken advantage over the opening 30.