Seton Hall trailed Creighton by four points at the final media timeout, just like they did eight days ago. And just like the last meeting, the Pirates came up big late-on to knock off the Jays, 81-75.
In near identical fashion to the first meeting between these schools just eight days ago in Newark, Seton Hall got off to an aggressive start and led 12-2 before a 12-0 Creighton run and then a collective offensive drought from both sides through the mid-portion of the first half.
Myles Cale (20 pts, 3r, 2a) picked up the slack for a struggling Myles Powell (19p, 6r, 4a), but ten first half turnovers limited Seton Hall while the Jays struggled from the field against a fairly stout defense before Marcus Zegarowski drilled a three at the buzzer.
Trailing 33-30 coming out of the half, the second 20 minutes were a completely different game.
Sandro Mamukelashvili (17p, 9r) picked up the slack from Cale and scored 10 points over the first eight minutes while both teams shot the lights out and scorched the nets.
Powell started to find his groove, but so did Ty-Shon Alexander, who drained five straight threes mid-way through the second half to help keep Seton Hall at bay.
Trailing 73-69 coming out of the last media timeout, Seton Hall had Creighton, who have now lost four straight despite leading at the final timeout, just where they wanted them.
The Pirates were facing the same scenario that they did in the first meeting and while Powell was a monster in that one, it was Quincy McKnight (16p, 6stl, 4a, 3r) who registered four massive steals down the stretch to set up a deep, dagger go-ahead three from Powell to ultimately win the game.
Myles Cale and Sandro Mamukelashvili kept the team in this one, but Quincy McKnight and Myles Cale sealed the deal. Cale scored 13 in the first half and Sandro netted 10 over the first eight minutes of the second half to score 30 of Seton Hall’s first 51 and help out with Powell struggling. But how big were McKnight and Powell down the stretch? Seeking redemption from a missed read that got Ty-Shon Aleander hot, McKnight made four big steals in the closing minutes and of course Powell did what he does: hit tough shots. Clutch. McKnight’s work was especially satisfying given his defensive mistake earlier in the half.
As noted in my recap, man, how similar of a first half was that to the first game? It was eerie. Seton Hall got out to a 12-5 lead and looked good. Then their offense went absent in part due to 10 first half turnovers. Creighton had some spurts, but shot it poorly from the field and it nearly led to an identical halftime scores (31-29 vs 33-30) before Marcus Zegarowski’s buzzer-beater. Seton Hall was lucky they weren’t trailing by more. I definitely typed this eight days ago.
Despite Creighton’s late-game woes, this was a big win. It will certainly count as a ‘quadrant one’ win and was rated by KenPom as the lowest win percentage game (34%) for Seton Hall over their remaining six. Seton Hall now improves to 3-6 on the road with a game over Xavier that they can’t overlook on what should be a snowy Wednesday night. This was a great start to the last portion of Seton Hall’s Big East slate. They could move into sole possession of third in the league if St. John’s falls to Villanova tonight.
Taurean Thompson saw the court with five minutes to play in the first half, but that was about it. It looked like he was out of Willard’s dog house, but apparently it was temporary. As you’ll see below, there was no mention of Thompson when Willard was speaking about switching Jared Rhoden in for Nzei — he said Rhoden has been playing the four.
Quotes from Kevin Willard, courtesy of AM970
Kevin Willard opening statement: “They made that three against our press with about 4:20 to go, I was like ‘Ugh’, I was searching (for answers). Jared (Rhoden) was working hard but a little bit lost and we were trying to get them out of rhythm … Offensively, our guys stepped up, they made some big shots and Quincy Mcknight with those steals– I can’t wait to go back to the film and show the team what an effort that was … His effort was phenomenal.”
More on McKnight: “It was really, really impressive. For being out there for 31 minutes, battling against a team that is really hard to defend … His defense in the last five minutes was the difference.”
On Cale and Sandro: “I think Sandro kept us in the game, he hit two monster threes that kept us within fighting difference. And Myles Cale has been playing great. His progression has been great.”
Willard on swapping Jared Rhoden with Mike Nzei (interestingly no mention of Taurean Thompson), who didn’t play the final nine minutes: “Mike Nzei has the flu, he has it bad. When he walked through the walk-through this morning, I was like ‘Oh boy’, I wasn’t sure we’d have him. The fact that he gave us 22 minutes. I finally looked at him and he said ‘Coach, I can’t follow these guys right now.’ We’ve been working a lot with Jared at the four … He gave us great energy, as Jared always does. He was aggressive offensively, which helped. Even though he turned it over, at least he was aggressive.”
Willard on what the win meant: “We needed a road win, we really did. It’s funny, I look at all the other conferences, and they all have 2-3 teams that are like 1-11 … Not that they are bad teams, but that is a W. I don’t look at our schedule and say ‘That’s a W.’ … Proud of this team, proud of their effort, had a great attitude at practice yesterday. Last night we came out and shot here — late at night.”