Notebook: Seton Hall escapes scare from Quinnipiac, 90-79

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Seton Hall trailed by as many as 10 and weathered a 13-point second half run but were able to escape their consolation round game against winless Quinnipiac with a 90-79 win on Friday night.

Desi Rodriguez (23 pts, 11 rebs) held his team together at the seams in the form of 11 early points and a flurry in the second half while Mike Nzei (19 pts, 12 rebs) tallied the second double-double of his career in the place of Ish Sanogo (shoulder; day-to-day).

Seton Hall had to withstand an opening onslaught from Quinnipiac, who made 4 of their first 5 shots including a 30-footer that built a shocking 20-10 lead.

Things turned from bad to worse as it looked like Myles Powell (12 pts, 2 asts) tweaked his ankle, but a few different defensive looks from Seton Hall plus a game-changing span from Rodriguez and Nzei turned the game around.

The duo were the only two Pirates to score from 16:42 to the 6:14 mark in the first half including 11 points from Desi in a 3:30 span. Nzei’s double-double was his first since a start against Rutgers early last season.

The surge from Seton Hall’s two forwards sparked a 17-point swing heading into the halftime break after trailing 20-10 early on.

Leading 46-39 at the break, it looked like Seton Hall had put the game away when they built a 15-point lead at 62-47, but a 13-0 run from Quinnipiac that was reminiscent of their start to the game put the game in severe doubt.

On the ropes, a junkyard dog rebound from Desi allowed for a run-out that resulted in Nzei being wrapped up for a flagrant foul as he sank a two-footer. Nzei completed the swing by drilling his two free throws to establish a more comfortable cushion that was maintained into the under-four in the form of an 80-69 lead that withstood wave after wave of Quinnipiac energy.

Seton Hall will clash with Stanford in the 5th place game on Sunday night.

Three thoughts:

You don’t usually say this after an 11-point win, but it really felt like Seton Hall escaped tonight. From early on, the difference in body language was blatant as Quinnipiac’s bench was clapping together as their teammates defended on the court while the Hall looked like they were coasting through a fog at times. How much of that can be chalked up to a hangover from losing to Florida? Kevin Willard should be keen to make this a learning experience.

This should be Mike Nzei’s starting spot to lose. Ish Sanogo is clearly banged up, but it’s also clear that Nzei brings more to the offensive table than Sanogo. We saw tremors of it via his efficient spurts of put-backs last season, but Nzei does a ton of good things on the glass too. What better way to instill confidence in someone than to ride their hot hand?

Seton Hall is really lacking offensive play-making and ball movement from their guards. The Pirates had just six assists until late in the game and half of those came from Angel Delgado (5 pts, 8 rebs, 4 asts), who was limited with foul trouble. When Madison Jones isn’t playing well, and he hasn’t offensively in Orlando, the Hall is not getting much from their guards as far as creating opportunities. Can they keep relying on Rodriguez and Carrington to create shots for themselves?

Three quotes (and one) from Kevin Willard:

What this win meant: “We had an emotional loss last night — I knew it would be the same as Bradley last year … I don’t care how ugly it was, it’s a W. We move on, we get a day off and we get ready for Stanford … At Iowa we took two steps forward with our maturity, last night we took one step back. Tonight we actually took two steps forward again. We kind of knew we could win this game at any point, we just had to wake up.”

On Mike Nzei’s big night:It’s half my fault and maybe half his. When he knows he’s going to play, he plays so much more freer and looser. He has to do that more often, it’s great to see.”

On Delgado being double-teamed: “It’s a sign of respect and he doesn’t understand that … They’re throwing the whole kit and caboodle at him. These are games that are only going to make him better as the season goes on.”

Full quote on Ish Sanogo’s shoulder injury:We’re going to be — Ish and I actually just talked. His shoulder is a pain in the butt where, he has it strong, if we shut him down and have surgery, it’s a kiss of death for him. We have to figure out a way for when he tweaks it, how to work with that a little bit. He’s a tough strong kid, no one can doubt his toughness but I’m also going to be cautious with him.

“I’ll see how he feels on Sunday, if he doesn’t feel he’s at 100-percent strength, then no, I won’t do it because it’s a long season. It’s kind of like what he did at George Washington [last season] when he actually dislocated it. We sat him out the Rutgers game and one other game and then he came back strong. So I’m more worried about him coming back strong. It’s strong right now, it feels good right now, but I’ll look at him on Sunday and get a good read from his body language and how his body is feeling. If he feels strong then he’ll play.”

  • LBP

    Madison Jones is not an answer– forget offensively, he is terrible on D

    • LBP

      BTW Gonzaga is over-rated

      • Matty P

        Florida has looked good so far in this game against Gonzaga. Looks like they should be the 2nd best team in the SEC behind Kentucky and easily a tournament team. Tough to take a loss but I’d much rather take one against a tournament team in a neutral location that looks like they should be in the top 25 on Monday.

        • hallstorm

          The Florida game was, by and large, a home game for them. I think come tournament time it will be viewed like that.

    • Funny, KW actually had high praise for him tonight. Will post quote later

      • LBP

        Well he’s the Coach and maybe I watched another Game with a Madison Jones at PG

        • Here’s the quote:

          “Madison was excellent. I thought in the second half he picked us up defensively, a couple of big deflections. I like that he has confidence in his jump shot, I preach to him that he has to have confidence, he has to be able to shoot it. It’s hard for him, it’s much different than DG last year. Madison sat out almost a year and a half. I try to tell him, you still have a little rust to you, you still have to bring it mentally.”

          Then KW went into how he needs to help MJ mentally because of the way this team preps/film watches compared to Wake/MJ being out of it for a year or so

          • LBP

            Thx Chris —

  • Matty P

    Very impressed by Nzei tonight. Great to see him go 5-5 tonight at the line since he struggled there last year and so far this year. He isn’t able to do what Ish can do on the defensive end, but he makes great cuts and by patrolling the baseline on the offensive end he appears to get himself in good rebounding position for putbacks or keeping possessions alive.

  • Fishjam

    – The matchup zone Willard was playing was brutal. players confused on who to cover left guys wide open in the 1st half. Maybe he’s doing it to try and rest Khadeen and Desi a little but it has not been effective.

    – Nzei really stepped up tonight when the team needed him. With many others walking around and displaying bad body language, he was a force of energy for all 37 minutes he played. Without him, we lose this game.

    – Angel made good decisions when the double teams came but often times he’d make the pass out to the perimeter and the ball would stop there. Jones, Khadeen & Desi have to make the 2nd & perhaps 3rd pass to swing the ball to the weakside where the double team came from. That is where the open shooter or open lane to drive will be. Our ball movement is far too stagnant.

    – Jones played a lackluster 1st half on both ends and saw his minutes reduced. Played OK in the 2nd half and hit his FTs to pad his stats at the end (6 of 8). Didn’t turn the ball over, but didn’t have any assists either.

    – Rasheed has not progressed at all. 5 fouls in 10 minutes and not a good rebounder. I would rather play a guard at the 5 than him. At least he’d be a threat on offense or to come up with a steal.

    – Really concerned khadeen is going to wear down like he did often last year. he’s logging 35+ minutes, bringing the ball up and taking the most shots. Really hope Jevon Thomas can provide a spark to the teamdefensively and create some opportunities on offense

    • Matty P

      I was wondering the same with the zone defense. If it’s something to try and give the guys a little rest since it’s 3 games in 4 days or if it’s a way to try and keep guys out of foul trouble. If it’s to keep guys out of foul trouble it hasn’t been working all that well since a number of guys have been in foul trouble the past 2 games.

    • LBP

      Thanks Fishjam –good review -I am down on Madison for a lot of reasons and major is NO assists- ( let alone that his D was non existent) . I know Myles tweaked his ankle and played only 16 mins but for him to have only 3 shots ( even he had 2 assists) is clearly the fault of the point guard.

    • hallstorm

      I have been harping on your third point ever since Iowa. The team does not make the extra pass at all–and that’s mostly on Khadeen and Desi. When they get the ball, their heads go down and they drive. After one or two of those, opposing coaches will just double down on them as they get to the paint and it becomes a very difficult play to make. Additionally, the extra passing creates more touches for everyone and that generally initiates energy on both sides of the floor. I really wish Williard would stress more passing instead of the iso plays.

    • ThePirateFan

      Hate to single Rashed out because they effort is there. The results just aren’t. He’s constantly out of position and because of that any height advantage he has is negated. Might as well throw a smaller lineup out there, it wouldn’t hurt the team’s rebounding. Defensively he’s a fouling machine so again his height is useless. If he continues to get playing time I have to assume KW gave him his word and won’t back off of it to preserve some integrity with future recruits. Because Rashed unfortunately is over matched.

  • Fishjam

    It was not a pretty performance but it was a W and gives them a chance to salvage something out of this tournament against a solid Stanford team that is around #60-65 in KenPom last I checked.

  • Andrew Herbst

    I was very impressed by Nzei tonight. Hopefully this game can help him have more confidence, Desi and Khadeen played well once again. As well as Powell. However, I am concerned with Jones. He’s not scoring and he’s turning it over way too much. He’s also struggling on defensive end. We can’t afford to have have cost us on D.

  • 11yearplan

    The team was off balanced as it could not adjust to Ish not being in the starting lineup.

    MJ hit the foul shots at the end which sealed the game for the Hall. He did have an assist late in the game on the pass to Rasheed.

    Too early to give up on either IS or MJ. More important lets hope RA improves, or at least cuts down on fouls, with increased playing time.

  • Hallbuster

    Our Defense is HORRIBLE. Scratching my head what happened to our defense. I know IW and Gordon were a huge part of it last year but I didn’t think it would be this bad this year. I rewatched the win against Villanova and it’s literally a completely different team defensively. We were pounding the floor literally in that game the defense was so energized and playing aggressive but smart man to man. I’ve seen more open threes and lack of boxing out this year then I saw all of last year. I don’t get it. Willard is a coach who prides himself on defense. Our kids are more athletic and now more mature then ever, and yet the defense is absolutely terrible. If we want to stand a chance at repeating some of the achievements of last year, then coach needs to wake this team up defensively. Angel just wants to score, Ish looks like he did freshmen year (I know he is injured), Dino too exhausted because he is our offense to play hard D. Desi gives glimpses of it. Jones forget it too slow. Nzei maybe but don’t think being great against quinnipiac”s “bigs” is anything resembling a test. Willard needs to get this team playing in your face man to man D. If it means using the bench more so be it. I’ve seen this team turn it around before so all is not lost but man the defense is nothing shy of terrible to start the season given where it was last year

  • fouline

    It seems like we’re living by the hot hand. And that is not good enough for the BE.

  • LBP

    Hall is favored by 4–would like to see a real good effort tonight

    • PadrePirate

      Many flaws have been exposed over last couple of games (loose perimeter D, offensive ball movement, lack of depth at PF, weak play at PG, in addition to the ever-nagging FT’s). A solid W with improvement in at least a few of these areas would right the ship. I’m a little worried that the guys have lost some confidence and fire, but it’s still early. Maybe a game without Ish will be a wake up for the others.

  • 11yearplan

    Does anyone know if Ish will be playing tonight?

  • hallstorm

    I realize the season is still early, but I’ve never seen a team that can look sooooo bad during 5-7 minutes stretches. Turnovers, bad shots, no passing and really, really bad defense. No wonder Quinnipiac was close–it’s really easy to see this team break. Since the 13 minute mark in the first half against Stanford, The Hall looks downright awful.

  • LBP

    Wow–we were just so bad –brings back the night-mares of a few years ago.
    I know I have picked on him , but Madison is just not the point guard this Team can win with on a consistent base.This Team needs someone to control pace; balance the floor and break down a defense (or , if not, be a hellacious defender). Madison is just on the floor and sets no pace nor contribute to design an offense.
    To-nite, the Hall could not have beaten any High School Team–Desi was in outer space–Myles felt like a raw Frosh etc.– but no one took control or steadied anyone–that is what I had hoped Madison would do. Frankly , D. Thomas can not arrive soon enough.