No. 22 Seton Hall overcomes slow start, uses 20-3 run to bury NJIT 82-53

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NEWARK — On a day in which No. 22 Seton Hall looked sluggish against an inferior opponent with their best player glued to the bench, it was a series of young Pirates who helped picked up the slack.

Following some matador defense and a few head-scratching missed shots, Angel Delgado (5p, 4a, 2r) was pulled from the game at the 18:14 mark of the second half — he wouldn’t see the court again.

Officially, he picked up a minor tweak to his calf, but that doesn’t explain the stare-down from Kevin Willard nor his solitary walk off the court following the Seton Hall alma mater. 

“Nothing. On one of the last drives, he tripped over Abdul’s [Lewis] leg and kind of, nothing major but a little calf, minor thing,” said Willard of what happened to his center.

“I wasn’t going to put him back in. He has a logged a lot of minutes already, early in the season. The big fella has been a workhorse, I wasn’t going to mess around with that. Technically gave him a night off, which he deserves.”

Believe Willard’s explanation or not, Delgado’s second half absence proved to be a non-factor as freshman big Sandro Mamukelashvili (11p, 9r) nearly picked up a double-double in a game in which Delgado failed to and Ish Sanogo (0p, 6r) and Mike Nzei (4p, 3r) were fairly quiet.

“That was the frustrating thing with Sandro. We had a great talk last night, we watched some film. It was so minor some of the stuff he was getting frustrated on,” said Willard of his freshman big’s start to his career.

“I showed him he was doing everything right, he was just a second late or a step slow, fixing those things will put him in position to get a rebound, to get something going good his way, I thought he gave us great energy.”

With Seton Hall leading 43-35 at the under-16, Delgado on the bench, and leading scorer Desi Rodriguez (19p, 7r) about to pick up his fourth foul, the team went on a crippling 20-3 run which included 16 points from guards to break open the flood gates and crush NJIT’s will.

The slow start, big game-changing run pattern is eerily similar to the three games prior to tonight, but Willard doesn’t sound worried.

“No, especially when you play local teams, you’re going to get their best shot, especially early,” he replied when asked if he was worried.

“I think our depth is kind of helping wear teams down. You’re going to get everyone’s best shot in the first 10-13 minutes. We’ve had some good runs early, it’s just sustaining that energy early on. For the most part, I felt comfortable where we were.”

There’s truth to that, as NJIT did well to clog the paint in the first half before a self-inflicted “brain fart” — NJIT head coach Brian Kennedy’s words — gifted six easy points to the hosts just before the half.

“I thought we came out with good purpose in the second half,” added Kennedy. “And then their size and their physicality kind of wore us down a little bit.”

Along with Mamukelashvili, it was reserve guard Eron Gordon (7p, 3a) who helped pick up the slack today with Jordan Walker sidelined due to a torn ligament in his thumb, an injury first thought to be a sprain. 

Gordon converted an and-one during the second half run which had the entire bench halfway on the court and failed to turn the ball over, helping keep the Hall’s total count to an effective 12.

“I thought E-G did a really good job,” said Willard of Gordon. “I thought he defended really well, he was a little more comfortable in that position considering that Jordan [Walker] is going to be out three weeks, maybe a little bit more than that.”

Willard added that while Walker could technically play, he has adopted the approach of “playing it safe”, inferring that he would likely need surgery at the end of the year if it didn’t heal properly now; Walker wore a red cast on his right hand while on the bench.

****

Looking ahead, Seton Hall (4-0) will receive a few days of rest before they take on Rhode Island (1-1), a Hurley-led team which recently lost fifth-year senior E.C. Matthews to a wrist injury in a loss to Nevada; Rhodie was ranked just outside the top-25 to start the season. 

If they win on Thanksgiving, Vanderbilt or Virginia await the Pirates in the early game on Friday night in Brooklyn. Willard said the team will be having a Thanksgiving dinner at his house next Sunday before muttering “I’ll be doing the cooking, we’ll see how that goes.”

  • LBP

    Maybe SHU fans should just get used to the way this Team plays in ” spurts”–particularly against weaker Teams. Next four Games set the tone.

  • Charlie

    Perhaps slightly more impressive – it was a 24-3 run. NJIT scored the first 5 points of the second half to cut it to 39-35. But as noted, the real tear came between the under-16 and the under-8 media timeouts.

  • fouline

    Boy, when do the real games start. And i thought the OCS was better than last year and that was no great shakes.

    • RonD

      It is better. The next five games are all tough vs brand names. Throw in Indiana and that’s six top 100 teams, four of which are top 50. That is a very strong pre conference schedule.
      And what would you expect? There are the usual number of mid/low majors to allow the team to work on things plus those games are needed to build some confidence in the young guys. Aside the Ish/Nezi combo, our depth consists of 3 freshmen and a sophomore.

  • PadrePirate

    First four games have been warm-ups. This group has always been a slow 1H starter and often plays up or down to their opponent’s level. I just hope they’re ready to elevate their game for the next four games vs. top 50 opponents. That stretch will tell whether this team has the grit, guts, or whatever you want to call it, to make a deep run this year.

  • Andrew Herbst

    Next few games will be a real indicator of what this team is made off. Hopefully Angel can rest his calf and come back Thursday ready to go.

    • PadrePirate

      As of today, Kenpom has RI (59), Vandy (52) or VA (8), TTech (30), and Louisville (25) all likely tournament level teams. VCU is decent (88). but after that, there’s a real fall off with St Peter’s, Rutgers, Wagner, Manhattan, with Wagner being the worst of the bunch.

      • Andrew Herbst

        We should win our last four games before BE play. Have some good tests coming up

      • VinBick

        The first half of yesterday’s game plus the first minute or so of the second half did not display quality basketball by the home team, but the visitors played their hearts out. And the visitors continued to play hard for all 40 minutes. The better team won by 29 as expected. The new kids on the block showed real potential. The senior citizens on the team were pretty damn good, too. Angel had an off day; haven’t we all done so to some degree?

        The last KenPom ranking of the Hall mentioned in a post here was 29. If that is the case, the only opponents with higher rankings are Virginia and Louisville. A split between those two, and with wins against all of the others in the out of conference portion of our schedule, will have the Pirates entering league play at 12-1.

        The first AP poll of 2018 may find a small New Jersey school in its top 20!
        Not so bad, right?

        • PadrePirate

          If we finish this OOC schedule 12-1, I’d say we’re in for quite a special year. I’m definitely enthusiastic, but I just feel this team hasn’t been proven yet. I only saw the IU game, but have listened to the others. There are still longish spells of out-of-sync type play and a lot of bone-head turnovers. Definitely room for improvement, but there’s a high ceiling this season. Angel gets a pass for having an off-night vs NJIT, and it’s a good sign to have multiple weapons on the roster.

  • regularJoe2

    I am glad that the Pirates are starting a more competitive stretch of games. I was very surprised to see Angel take a 3 point shot and he did not seem to be in the flow of the offense in the first half. I certainly hop Desi gets consideration for Big East player of the week — he has been outstanding.

  • Louie Dee

    Texas tech is killing northwestern (20). They are going to be a tough team and might be ranked tomorrow.
    We need to make this game a home court advantage. I hope fans comeout for this game at msg.

  • regularJoe2

    Agreed Texas Tech looked really tough. Beat NW by 35 but it could have been more.

    • PadrePirate

      I’d say we definitely need a split over the next 4 games (RI, TTech, Vandy/VA, Lville) to prove that our rank is not a fluke and that we can hang with other top 25-50 teams. 3 or 4 wins would be very impressive. 0 or 1 wins says that we’re more of an over-hyped bubble team.
      Adding to the challenge is the turnaround time: back to back Thrs/Fri games one week, then Thrs/Sun the next. We know how KW hates that stuff, but it is a huge opportunity nonetheless.

      • Joe Schmoe

        It’s not like this team doesn’t have experience playing tough games on back 2 back nites at MSG. But I agree, we need W’s.

        • Louie Dee

          We got this, 3 home games except for Lville.

          4 wins baby!

          • PadrePirate

            In fact, Lville is our only true road game on the OOC. A bunch of neutral court games in MSG and Barklay’s, and then at Rutgers, but come selection time, a real road win at Lville would go a long way.

          • Joe Schmoe

            We are playing Nova at the Wells Fargo Center in philly this year not at the Pavillion. thats HUGE, and Pirate fans need to travel. If you can get to Newark you can get to philly.

  • PirateLacrosse14

    While I would love for Walker to be playing right now (not only for added depth, but for a young kid to get some experience), the one silver lining I see is Gordon getting some minutes. Walker clearly needs a good amount of work to fine-tune his skills (errant passes, over-dribbling into TOs), but in terms of aggressiveness and comfort ability with the ball in his hand, he almost looked like the sophomore and EG was the freshman. On the other hand, in the first couple of games Gordon would take the ball down and kind of camp about 5 feet passed half-court until someone like Desi came to get the ball. With this playing time, he’s finally loosening up a bit and allowing himself to play, rather than overthinking and holding up the Offense. I think it goes back to that picture of the whole team in front of the Chapel; Walker was front and center and EG was off to the side. Hopefully this increase in minutes for EG pushes him closer to the center of future pictures, and we have some nice depth in the backcourt.

  • LBP
  • PadrePirate

    Some pretty impressive wins by BE teams so far. Xav, Johns, and of course Nova made us proud in the Gavitt Games. That Tariq Owens is shaping into a beast in the paint–6 blocks. Johnnies have a good pool of young talent. Xavier and Jays look strong too.

  • shufaninva

    Chris,
    know anything about this Trey McGowens we just offered? I see he is a 2019 guard. Too early to get a read on him?

  • SHU95

    Regarding the Rutgers t-shirt… A True #1 never has to tell you their #1… U already know. Lavar Ball thinks his son is better than Jordan… I think the t-shirt is on about the same level of crazy…

    • Joe Schmoe

      LaVar Ball is a marketing and PR genius.

      • SHU95

        The guy that invented the iPhone is a genius… people generally stop listening sooner or later once the absurdity of the person gets old… It almost always does. I don’t think LB is interesting enough to hold our attention for much longer… Especially if LB Jr shoots under 30%…

      • PadrePirate

        The guy has figured out how to keep his name regularly in the headlines for over a year straight. He may be a total moron, but he knows what he has figured out what works. Wouldn’t be surprised if a reality show follows soon…and who knows, political office?

        • shufaninva

          They already have the reality show. It’s ac Facebook exclusive show I think.

  • Jersey Jerry

    Wanted to take a minute to say THANKS Chris for ALL U do keeping our Pirate Nation updated on ‘da Hall ~ this is a GR8 site thanks to U … to ALL U trolls out there, this Pirate on the Florida Panhandle wishes each and every one of U a Blessed Thanksgiving!!! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ba690612ad7ca6dd6a76b084b1e6c7172ff900ff3f10180221184f979c12d8c3.jpg

  • Joe Schmoe

    My thoughts on the Rutgers tee? The Garden State Hardwood Classic trophy says otherwise….

  • LBP

    Hope all my Brothers and Sisters on this Board have the Best Thanksgiving. A nice dessert will be The Hall carving up Rhode Island.

    • VinBick

      Hope your Thanksgiving has you surrounded by a wonderful group of family members like mine. The turkey feast will be at 4:00 pm followed by the Hall’s game at 6:00 pm. Go Pirates!

      • LBP

        Nothing better VinBrick

  • 11yearplan

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Hopefully the only challenge we face today is controlling the remote so we can tune in the game tonight.

  • Andrew Herbst

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Can’t wait for tonight. Great article in the Post about us today. Danny H compared this team to PJ team. https://nypost.com/2017/11/22/seton-hall-has-look-of-glory-days-team-star-alum-turned-rival/

  • fouline

    The happiest of Thanksgiving. And a win tonight would be a sinful dessert.