Seton Hall used smothering first half defense and a 25-8 run to control Xavier for the majority of an impressive 83-71 win at Cintas Center that sees the Pirates improve to 3-0 in Big East play for the fourth time in their history.
The Pirates are now 2-0 on the road to start Big East play for just the second time since 1999-00 and 3-0 to start league play for the fourth time in their history as they continue to turn the corner after a rough December.
The team’s first half defense was great early on. It would be hard to find many better defensive sequences this year than the 6:36 stretch from 15:24 to 8:48 in the first half. The team registered four steals and three monster blocks as everyone chipped in to force a series of turnovers that set up a 25-8 Pirates run and 33-19 cushion.
Myles Powell averaged 26.3 ppg at Cintas Center over his four-game career; not to mention his 5.2 rpg and 4 apg. Powell didn’t seem like he had to force things tonight except for a couple minutes in the second half yet he seemed to score in just about every way imaginable, including a crucial drawn foul from the perimeter late in the game. It should be mentioned that Powell’s nine boards led the team and he got it done in gritty fashion: just six of his 24 came from the perimeter. Powell hopped from 10th to 8th in KenPom player of the year standings post-game.
Quincy McKnight now has 7+ assists in his last three games and is first in assist rate in Big East games only. McKnight registered 7+ dimes in just four games over his career prior to that, which is a sign of just how far he has come in this offense. McKnight was also an efficient 3-5 from three, all of which came in the first half. It goes without saying, but McKnight also played great defense (three first half steals) aside from his foul on a corner three late the game. Elsewhere at point guard, Anthony Nelson is quite the back-up for a sophomore, he had four assists in nine minutes and now has 52 in 258 minutes of action this year, or one every 4.9 minutes to go along with 25 turnovers; Nelson is 41st nationally in assist rate while McKnight sits 76th.
The Hall almost threw this one away, they look vulnerable when teams press late in games. Oregon is the most notable example, but if Jared Rhoden didn’t re-steal a midcourt turnover late in this one, the Pirates were in a lot of trouble, leading by just four at 75-71 with 1:58 left. That said, they did well to manage the clock from the under-eight to under-four timeouts, eating up shot clock and getting good looks late in possessions.
Sandro Mamukelashvili is getting his cast off and pins out of his fractured wrist tomorrow, per Dave Popkin on AM570’s halftime show. We’re exactly 4.5 weeks since Iowa State and the original prognosis was 6-10 weeks, so it seems like Sandro’s return will be at the front end of that window, if there are no future setbacks. It’s also note-worthy that the injury is to his non-shooting hand, which is usually a positive.
Post-game Quotes from Kevin Willard
Courtesy of AM570 interview with Gary Cohen and Dave Popkin
Willard on team closing the game out, opening thoughts: “It wasn’t pretty. We’ve got to do better defensively at the end of games, we gave up too many threes and let them get back into it. … Understanding spacing a little better against pressing, we’ve got to get better and we’re going to keep working on it. … Against Oregon we didn’t have Q, we didn’t have Q for the last ten minutes. Michigan State, it wasn’t pressing it was offense that hurt us. I thought we did a good job of milking the clock a bit and cutting down the game. … Tough place to play, I thought everyone out there did a real good job.”
On Myles Cale defending Naji Marshall (15p on 10 FGA): “He was phenomenal, he’s one of the best defenders in the league, he doesn’t get credit for it. He always has to guard, and he does so much for us. Every stat sheet I’m looking at now, he’s +15. I wanted to get him in early, it was just tough when he got that fourth [foul]. … But he’s been super and playing great. They really took his three-point shot away. … Anytime you win on the road you have to take advantage of it. Getting up 16 and being on the road and being able to do that is pretty good. … Early in the game, the job we did on Naji, we changed the momentum. We made it hard for him, he didn’t get frustrated, I give him a lot of credit, he stayed within it and tried to let his teammates go, but he’s a superstar, he’s a big-time player. I just thought Myles Cale was great about it.”
On Myles Powell having a vintage performance: “He’s like at 80-percent to be honest with you. I think with where he was at the beginning of the year or the end of last year– playing the amount of minutes he’s playing will help him get him back into game shape. He had three really good days of practice. I changed his warm-up routine. He goes a little bit too hard in warm-ups. I decided to shut him down in warm-ups, I did it for DePaul and I did it tonight. I just think, he uses so much energy during the game, I don’t need him warming up hard before the game.”
On Quincy McKnight: “I thought Quincy was really good in the first half making shots and taking shots. I thought he got everybody relaxed. … Ten shots for him is a lot, being a point guard. … I think he’s playing at a high level, I like the fact that he’s being aggressive offensively.”
On Jared Rhoden’s career-high 16 points: “He’s getting back to the way he was in the summer, he was our second-best player in the summer, he really was. The ball sticks with him a little bit too much, that’s where he getting turnovers. … Jared, once he gets that feel for when to shoot it and when to keep the offense moving, you’re going to see him get more opportunities and more open shots. But he’s driving the basketball with much more control. … He’s starting to play more under control.”
On winning first two road games:“There’s not one team where you’re like [that’s an easy road game]. … I think DePaul, the way they had been playing going into that game, I thought it was going to be extremely difficult. And this is my favorite college venue, it really is. It’s a perfect size arena, 9,000 people, they’re into it, they cheer. I think this is one of the tougher places to play.”
Where the team is at overall: “We’re in a good spot but we’ve got to get better. I don’t think we’re where we need to be in certain aspects. I thought we rebounded the ball better tonight but we need to stop turning the basketball over, we’re giving teams too many [chances]. When we score or we’re in transition and we make teams work on us, I think teams have a hard time scoring and use a lot of clock. We’re giving too many buckets away, great victory but we have to get really focused because Marquette played last night so they had a day on us and we have a short prep and obviously Markus [Howard] is one of the best players in the country.”