Rapid Reaction: Sandro goes off for 23 as Seton Hall breezes past Sacred Heart, 90-76

Photo: Kimberley Kirnan

NEWARK — In a battle of the S-H-Us, Seton Hall jumped out to an 18-4 lead and never truly looked back in a routine 90-76 win over Sacred Heart to wrap up their home non-conference schedule.

Sandro Mamukelashvili scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half to go along with eight rebounds while Shavar Reynolds Jr (10 pts, 3 rebs, 2 asts) saw his first action since December 4th against New Hampshire, scoring a nifty bank shot after pump-faking past his defender on the perimeter.

Leading 54-37 at the half after all ten Pirates who saw the court in the first half also scored, Mamukelashvili exploded in the second half and continued to utilize his newfound outside stroke after he missed the first seven three-pointers of the season, including one at the buzzer in a loss to Saint Louis.

Three takeaways:

With Maryland resting on their laurels for the past eight-plus days, Seton Hall certainly didn’t overlook this game. There was an above average amount of casual body language before game, but that didn’t make its way onto the court, unless you want to count Myles Powell (15 pts, 4 rebs, 4 asts) getting rejected by the rim on a breakaway in the opening minutes.

While the offense clicked early and often, Seton Hall struggled with Sacred Heart’s active switches for the first 30 minutes, which appears to be a bit of a recurring theme this year. The Pioneers shot 45-percent in the first half and were scoring three points a minute for a large portion of it. Perhaps the Hall was shying toward defending the perimeter and letting Sacred Heart beat them inside, but it wasn’t the most stalwart defensive performance tonight until the game started to get out of hand midway through the second half.

In the most impressive performance of the game, Sandro Mamukelashvili (23 pts, 8 rebs) continued to display his ever-improving outside stroke. Just minutes after Steve Pikiell noted post-Rutgers that he’d never seen Sandro do what he did in two years of tape, Kevin Willard explained how he helped Mamukelashvili with the quickness of his release via 500 shots per day in the three days leading up to Rutgers. It appears the hard work is paying off as Sandro is now 10-of-18 after opening the season with seven straight misses from downtown. If Mamukelashvili can stay out of foul trouble and hit one of two threes per game, he will emerge as quite the complete player.

Quotes from Kevin Willard and players:

Sandro Mamukelashvili on turning around his outside shot after 0-7 start and miss against Saint Louis: “Don’t remind me, don’t remind. It was tough, I’m just playing (smiles). It feels amazing. I’ve been working on my shot a lot. I want to thank everybody who is helping me, Coach, other coaches like Brandon (Hall) who are just there for me. I started struggling but Coach never came to me and was like I feel you should not shoot. He told me shoot, shoot and it will come the more comfortable you get.

“Freshman year I was not getting that much minutes so it was hard to get in the groove at the beginning but now Coach worked with me on my shot and showed me a lot of stuff I was doing wrong. Now when the shot is falling I get a lot of confidence and it feels amazing. Three was one of my biggest strengths (coming into Seton Hall) and seeing that it’s working now it feels amazing.”

Quincy McKnight on facing his former school: “It was a good experience. Coaching staff told me I’ve been looking good this last year and they’re really proud of me and stuff like that. It was definitely a great experience … I talked to a couple of my old teammates (post-game), a couple of kids I played AAU with, a couple parents that were really close to me when I was at Sacred Heart. It’s good to see love, being around love is always good.”

McKnight on Anthony Nelson’s (eight assists) progression at point guard:“Ant, he’s going to be good– he’s going to be a great. He’s a pass-first point guard, I’ve been learning a lot from Ant, me transitioning from a combo guard to trying to be a point guard, I watch a lot of Ant practice, playing against Ant in practice he’s tough to guard. One-on-one he just makes plays.

McKnight on the message of being switched to the second team in practice: “He’s (Willard) just trying to send me the message of keep being aggressive on offense, just being aggressive that’s it. Getting Ant adjusted with the first team a lot, that way when he comes in he’s not as confused and he knows all the sets.”

Shavar Reynolds Jr on Sandro’s improvement: “His potential is the roof, he just has to tap into it … As his confidence grows, he’s going to be a ridiculous player.”

Kevin Willard on Sandro’s improvement: “When you’re around your guys as much as we’re around them, you start to see tendencies. The biggest thing about Sandro is he’s starting to take good shots. All his shots the last couple of games have not been rushed shots, they’ve been with the flow of the offense.”

Willard on flipping McKnight and Nelson in practice: “Just to give Anthony Nelson some time with Myles Powell (on the first team). There has been times Ant has been in with Myles and he’s missing him, and I just just wanted to give him time with Myles Powell.”

Willard on Shavar Reynolds Jr’s performance and the team’s defense: “Shavar has been stuck in no-man’s land because Myles Powell is so important for us to be out there. It’s been hard to get him minutes, but he’s a good little spark plug for us. None of us played well defensively tonight, but usually he’s a guy that can give us a spark defensively.”