Notebook: Seton Hall keeps NCAA hopes simmering with win over Xavier

NEWARK — Seton Hall used a clutch 15-5 second half run, a strong defensive showing, and big-time games from Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez to put away Xavier in a must-have at Prudential Center.

Delgado and Desi combined for 47, but another strong game from Madison Jones and one of the better defensive showings from Seton Hall strung together to provide a clutch win in front of a light crowd in Newark.

All that and more below…

Five thoughts

Angel Delgado absolutely dominated Xavier’s front court. Sean O’Mara and Kaiser Gates had big games at the Cintas Center, but Delgado was a man on a mission tonight — finishing with 25 points and 13 boards, most of which came over the first 30 minutes. 

Xavier had a chance to make it an eight-point game when they led 38-33 but missed a wide open corner three that led to an easy run-out and then a 15-5 Seton Hall run. This swing was blatant at the time and really helped turn the game in the Hall’s favor. 

The Hall held Xavier to a few scoring droughts, but the biggest came late in the second half. The Musketeers failed to score from the 7:26 to 1:59 mark in the second half which allowed an 8-0 Hall “run” that provided a 10-point lead heading into the under-four. It seemed like Xavier turned it over much more than 13 times as Seton Hall was incredibly active with their hands tonight for the first time in awhile. 

Madison Jones is playing at the top of his game at the right time. Yes, Jones has had some pretty bad games this season, but 18 points, 7 boards, 7 assists, 4 steals, and 1 turnover over his last two is very promising — see Kevin Willard’s quote below.

The crowd was quite poor considering the circumstances. Even the student section was fairly weak compared to how great they’ve been all season, though I’ll give them a pass this time. Regular fans have run out of excuses a long time ago — this was an early start with everything on the line. Angel Delgado was very up-front with me about what he thinks of the support, stay tuned for a follow-up story.

Five quotes

Kevin Willard on his team responding after tough losses: “This team has a lot of heart. We’ve had some really tough losses this year, and we had a really tough one on Saturday, but it was good to get a day off … We knew we had to win 2-out-of-three and this was a big game … Every once in a while you get your ass kicked, and that happened Saturday. Sometimes you get beat up. That’s been my message to this team: How do you get back up? When you get beat down, wake up the next morning, the sun comes up, and let’s get ready for the next game. We didn’t dwell on it. That’s the great thing about sports — you always have another opportunity and it give s you a chance to show your character.”

Willard on Madison Jones: “He’s been phenomenal. He’s really helped us defensively, he understands the game, and he knows what I want from him. He’s been a very strong rudder for us in the back court. 

Willard on why the defense picked up in the second half: “We scored a little bit to get us going. I think the biggest thing was Ish [Sanogo] was out there, when Ish is out there — he’s only about 80% — he’s able to do so much for us. He creates a lot of havoc.”

Madison Jones on what changed in the second half: “I was just watching the film at halftime and we weren’t playing with enough energy and I just wanted to bring more energy on the defensive end to try and help out.”

Jones on the importance of the game: “It was a must-win, no matter what. It was a must-win, we didn’t want to walk out of here with anything besides a ‘W’. We knew it would be big for our season. We knew we had to come out of this homestand with 2 out of 3 and that’s what we did.”

Angel Delgado on the mentality coming into the game: “There’s no more ‘I’m tired, I’m sore’ — it’s over for that. If you’re sore, go to the cold tub, that’s what I tell them [his teammates]. We have to play hard and play like it’s the last game … We know we’re in the bubble right now. I tell the guys ‘If we don’t pick it up, we’re going to stay outside the tournament.’ And they know and that’s why they so mad — they play angry today. I enjoy myself just looking at them [laughs]. They play angry and I love it — I like how the guys played.”