Seton Hall overcomes woeful first half to rout Prairie View 75-55

Wendell Cruz/FinishFirstPhotos

NEWARK, N.J. — This was supposed to be the game that saw Seton Hall accelerate after turning a tight corner against Maryland on Thursday.

For the better part of thirty minutes, a road-tested Prairie View A&M looked poised to upset an offensively-inept Seton Hall as groans from the Prudential Center crowd escalated in volume.

Trailing 27-22 at the half, Seton Hall was getting outmatched by Prairie View A&M in most statistical categories and any flies on the locker room wall certainly witnessed a show, to put it kindly. 

It took a 21-2 run over eight minutes of second half play dictated by guards Anthony Nelson and Quincy McKnight to give the hosts a twenty point victory that doesn’t tell the whole tale as Seton Hall closes out their non-conference with an acceptable 8-4 mark heading into Big East play.

Five Thoughts (and one)

Anthony Nelson and Quincy McKnight carried the offensive load. McKnight looked like he was trying to do a little too much in the first half, but he came on strong and was complemented by Nelson, who added a few new tricks to his repertoire including a head fake blow-by during the team’s game-turning 21-2 run, and several touchdown-esque outlet passes. Nelson’s increased exposure to starter minutes and McKnight needing to play lead guard should pay off as the season wears on.

Myles Cale’s (6p, 3-8 fg, 5r, 4 TO) struggles continue. Cale hasn’t reached double figures in six games now, a stat you think would have been snapped with Myles Powell injured. Jared Rhoden (12p, 9r) wasn’t a world-beater, but at this rate I wonder if there is a legitimate case to start Rhoden over Cale at the three once the team is healthier.

Seton Hall is now 23-of-96 (24%) from three dating back to the second Iowa State game. Of course this should be taken with a grain of salt due to Powell and Sandro’s injuries, but that’s also the point. If those two guys aren’t firing or aren’t even in the game, opponents should pack the interior and dare the Hall to make shots like Prairie View did.

Why is this team so inconsistent? From not showing up at Rutgers, to playing like bulldogs against Maryland, to sleepwalking through tonight’s game, inconsistency feels like a constant for this team.

Life without Myles Powell might be coming to a close within the next two games. After sitting at home for Maryland, Powell felt well enough to ride the bench today in street clothes. Kevin Willard thinks he is very doubtful for DePaul but said the plan is to get him practicing after the holiday break and said he hopes that Powell is back for Georgetown in January.

The non-conference was turbulent, but acceptable. Willard said his goal was 9-3 and Quincy McKnight gave a lukewarm response when asked about it, but things could have been a lot worse and also a lot better. If Iowa State can hold steady or improve, and Maryland doesn’t plummet, then those are two wins you can hang your hat on. And don’t forget about Saint Louis, who have won seven of eight including a neutral court win over Kansas State and a close loss to Auburn.

Post-game Quotes

Quincy McKnight on the second half turnaround: “Just being aggressive. Ant [Nelson] was pushing the ball a lot. In the first half we got stagnant, things like that. We stopped pushing the ball, we go out of our press a little bit. … We were just aggressive in the second half to run it up a little bit. We got back in our press and were aggressive. When we watched the first half film, hands weren’t active, things like that. That changed in the second half.”

McKnight on Powell being on the bench and his status: “It was good. He’s always going to be into the game. When you’re a fan of the game like we are, and when you work so hard, on or off the court you’re going to be a fan of the game and want to participate when a highlight play happens. … Trust me, that’s all he wants to do is get back on the court. He came back for a reason for his senior year and he has a lot to prove in conference play.”

McKnight on holiday, Christmas plans: “We all get to go home, we get three days off. So we’re going to cherish that. I’m going to still call these guys Christmas Day, these my brothers so I’m going to call them, text them in the group chat, things like that. We’re going to get back to our families and enjoy the family time right now and come back and have some more family time with these guys in conference play. I’m going back to Bridgeport (Conn.), back to the hometown, 203.”

Kevin Willard on the difference in the second half: “When I watched them [Prairie View], I knew it was going to be a dog-fight. They have good players and they play very hard. Coming off an emotional victory the other night, I was worried we aren’t shooting the basketball great, that if we started missing shots a little early, which we did, we would get deflated. I thought Tyrese [Samuel] in the second half coming in and giving us energy was a big difference.”

Willard on turnovers being cut down in second half: “I think Anthony Nelson just woke up and took control a little bit, was more aggressive. For him, it’s his first time he’s had to go back-to-back [playing] 36 minutes. It took him a little time to get going but once Ant got going and got Q involved, I think that was the biggest difference.”

Willard on Tyrese Samuel improvement: “I put Ty in at the five spot because Ro’ and Ike against [shorter] teams like this really struggle, it’s just hard. He’s doing exactly what you hope talented freshmen do as they stay patient and keep working. I think he’s going to continue to get better and better and we’re going to need him the amount of physicality that we’re going to see against DePaul, Xavier, those sort of teams.”

Willard on Powell being on bench: “I want him on the floor [not the bench]. He’s doing great. He just started the concussion protocol the other day. I don’t know what that is, I have no idea. It’s way more technical– but he’s progressing, there’s a shot he can play at DePaul but it’s a long-shot. We’re hoping to get him back to practice after this break and then work him, hopefully for the Georgetown game. That’s a realistic goal right now.”