Strong finish from Seton Hall propels them into Big East semis with 81-73 win over Creighton

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NEW YORK – Trailing 52-51 with 11 to play after throwing away a 14-point lead, it looked like Seton Hall was going to be shocked by Creighton and the hot shooting hand of Cole Huff (35 points, 7-11 3pt), but a hard-nosed closing quarter from the Hall, mainly from their guards, got the job done in a nail-biter at the Garden.

Seton Hall was able to pack the lane and hold Maurice Watson Jr. to just 6 points and 6 assists while Huff was clearly the star of the night, hitting big shot after big shot for the Bluejays. The Pirates were also able to dominate the battle on the glass 45-25 after the dust settled — another key going into the game.

“Desi [Rodriguez] and Isaiah [Whitehead] both had 6 and 8 in the first half, which really kind of got us going,” said Kevin Willard of his team’s rebounding effort which replicated their dominance in Omaha.

Leading 39-30 coming out of the half, Seton Hall relinquished any momentum they had when they turned it over twice and Cole Huff capitalized by scoring 9 of Creighton’s first 11 points out of the break as the tempo was kicked up a few levels.

The Jays continued their surge by taking a 52-51 lead into the under-12, their first since the 16:07 mark of the first half. Creighton was able to cash in by scoring 18 points off 14 Seton Hall turnovers to that point.

Seton Hall stemmed the tide by not turning it over for the next five minutes and just twice the rest of the way.

“I think every win this time of year is really important,” said Willard of his team’s resilience. “[But] to do it when you’re up nine and they came out and they really brought it to us, to fight back… I look at it that way: lose the lead and to fight back, I think that was really important.”

After clawing back, it looked like the Hall had wrapped things up with two minutes to play after Derrick Gordon forced an unconscious Cole Huff to miss a go-ahead three and then knock down one from the corner.

“I think he’s three for his last three,” said a serious but joking Willard about Gordon’s shot. “We might throw a party for him when we get back to the hotel.”

Down 5 with 2 minutes to play, Creighton wasn’t done yet.

The Jays cut their deficit to a bucket with under a minute to play, but Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington — who set an impressive but stealthy careeer-high of 27 — would combine for all 10 of Seton Hall’s points after Gordon’s big triple to seal the deal.

Carrington nailed several mid-range jumpers — a growing specialty of his — while Whitehead’s pure will to come down on his tailbone for his 11th rebound after a missed free throw prevented him from attending Seton Hall’s press conference due to treatment.

When I asked Willard about Whitehead’s desire to win down the stretch, this is what he told me.

“I think all these guys, their will to win is unbelievable. It’s why they’re here, it’s why they came as a group, it’s what they’re focused on. It’s why I got Co-Coach of the Year. You’ve seen my offense, it’s not great.

“I got it because of him, I got it because of these players. They have a will. Isaiah and Khadeen, they don’t like to lose. Zeke [Isaiah] doesn’t like to lose. Sometimes he goes off and there are moments you look at him and you’re shaking your head, but he wants to win.

“That’s all we talk about in huddles. We’ve come a long way, we used to talk about lobsters and cheerleaders. Now, we’re talking about what it takes to get a stop. This is a group — again — I’ve used the word special. It’s been a blast, man. I’ve had so much fun watching these guys grow and they’re still puppies. Year-old puppies, but they’re still great.”

  • LBP

    great fun win–nice job Chris– Hall Crowd was Great

  • WilponsStinkLessNow

    Glad you mentioned it, Chris, because IW’s rebound at the end of the game was the difference. Huge effort there. The kid just has a knack for making big plays in big moments. (Like the rebound he had to end the St. Johns game in MSG.)

    I like to think that the defense excelled tonight by taking number 10 out of the game, but 13 had the game of his life. It happens, what can you do? He hit shots he had no business making. More concerning is that AG continues to struggle. He’s showing no confidence when he gets the ball offensively, and we need him to make a run. He’s gotta be more aggressive.

    Whatever, this is a crazy tournament and we advance, that’s all that matters.

  • Fishjam

    had a blast at the Garden but the party was almost ruined by Cole Huff shooting the lights out. Ish’s defense wasn’t bad but the guy couldn’t miss. I never saw a game where they fouled the 3-point shooter so many times….it was at least 4 times, maybe 5, and I think they hit every free throw.

    Khadeen and Isaiah were great at creating offense and hitting some tough shots but that is not a recipe to win against strong teams. They didn’t do a good job of getting the ball into the post or driving and dishing. Delgado is in a huuuge slump but it also goes on the perimeter players for not getting him good looks. Several times Angel had decent position but the passes to him forced him to move sway from the basket to receive it. When he catches it far from the hoop it invites trouble….double teams, traveling violations, turnovers and bad shots. Feed him on the low block and he can convert at a high rate with his jump hook. Gotta get the big man going.

    Dino picked a great time to have the best shooting night of his career. He was excellent at supplying offense when they were scuffling a bit and was efficient from 3. IW was able to draw a lot of foulds and get to line(12 for 15) on a night when his shots weren’t falling. He was instrumental in fouling out both Watson and Groselle. He also made huge contributions on defense and on the boards. Several of his rebounds were just incredible, none moreso than the one he stole from the 7-foot Groselle and got dropped down on his rump. He’s really becoming a complete player.

    Ish had his hands full with Huff and with helping out all over. He stopped a lot of Watson’s penetrations and had some big offensive rebounds down the stretch. He was also 3 for 3 on his bunnies today.

    DG played solid defense on Watson and was in Huff’s face on a big air ball 3-attempt late. He had a big offensive rebound and putback and hit a massive 3 off a nice feed from IW. He did miss 2 free throws late.

    Solid contributions from Rashed and Carter when Angel picked up his 2nd foul. Between them they picked up 6 fouls but they managed to prevent Groselle and Hanson from scoring much.

    Then there is Desi who continues to be an enigma. He played a good 1t half, slashing to the hoop for 9 points and adding 6 rebounds. Then in the 2nd half he fell off the deep end. Willard seemed to get on him a couple of times early about not getting in position on offense and he seemed to take offense and let it take his head out of the game. He threw the ball away on an inbound and then threw away a pass for a backcourt violation. Credit to Willard for noticing Desi was lost and pulling him in favor of the 3-guard set for the rest of the game. Hope Desi gets it together fast because he is the key to beating Xavier. The 1-3-1 has holes on the baseline and from the corners where Desi does a lot of his damage. He also has big mismatches on the players Xavier uses on the flanks of the zone, Myles Davis and Sumner are both smaller guards who cannot stop Desi. Need the Kid to play a full 40 minutes to upset X again.

    • LBP

      Great review ( o.k. I am redundant) Fishjam. Have a hunch that Desi mouthed off again –even so , he went from a super weapon to a dud in a matter of minutes.
      This is a fun Team to watch. It is all gravy now.If Team does not get a 5/6 seed now, the Committee is not paying attention.BTW thought the crowd was great last nite.
      Get the ball inside to-nite and X-Men are the next to walk the plank.

      • Louie Dee

        The crowd was great. However, where are our students? The student section was lite. I only saw one lobster. Also I got to the end of the Xavier game and they had a strong student section. That makes absolutely no sense to me. SHU’s 30mins away and most students don’t take class on Fridays.

        • Fishjam

          I was surprised by lack of students and was shocked to only see 1 lobster and a walrus!! There were young kids (possibly students) sitting around me up in 212 so maybe they were spread out. But you had 4 (or was it all 8) teams vying for the same seats, albeit most of those teams are a lot further away then NJ. But it was a more expensive ticket and harder to get than calling the Hall ticket office. After the game there were a lot of Hall fans looking to buy for Xavier game outside the Garden….the old fashioned way, hand to hand.

      • Joe Schmoe

        Its amazing to me that in the ACC and the Big East there have been no real upsets. Both Conferences have the #1/4 and #2/#3 playing today.

  • hallstorm

    Hard fought win. So interesting seeing a Seton Hall team that’s not shooting threes to keep itself in the game while getting torched by another team with three’s. Between all the three’s Creighton hit plus the free throws from fouls on three’s and that had to be 60-70% of their offense.

    We continue to get burned on inbounds plays under opposing teams’ hoops, but McDermott is a master at running those plays.

    Overall a great game all-around for Whitehead. He pretty much threw the whole team on his back. Carrington looked the best I’ve seen him: completely under control and not doing too much. He let the game come to him and hit almost all his open jumpers.

    Looking at this team with the eye test….they have immense talent and cohesiveness when they’re clicking, but wow do they look rough when they have lapses. The turnovers are brutal and so unforced. Player for player, this team is on par with the top 10 teams in the country.

    I’m really excited to have another shot at Xavier.

    • Fishjam

      Hallstorm, good point on the inbound plays. Part of the reason they are getting burned on those is the guy playing the inbounder is leaving his position looking to help out but giving the inbounder a completely open lane to make the short passes. The defender needs to stay in the inbounders face with arms up, to obstruct his view and force him to pass over or around him. Last night it was Gordon who on several occasions left his position but in previous games it was Whitehead. Can’t try to do too much there, just stay in his face so you don’t give up the easy pass and layup.

  • Louie Dee

    What a game! Very proud of our team! Great win! MSG was so much fun.

    By the way we are Undefeated with the glory days uniform. Can we continue to play with the vintage jerseys for the rest of the season?

  • View from the presser last night. No Isaiah due to getting treatment.

    • Joe Schmoe

      Im guess an update on his condition should be out this morning?

    • SHULaw05

      If Isaiah is questionable for tonight’s game, biggest concern is risking his availability and/or productivity for next Thursday/Friday. Kid is tough, to say the least. We need IW healthy and at his best. Also hope that Desi shreds Xavier’s defense tonight.

  • Kevin Willard when asked about Desi only playing 4 minutes in the second half:

    “We’re still young at times, sometimes we get a little emotional. Let’s just say we’ve all learned to ride the emotions of our guys. His emotions were going one way and he needed to focus on something. It’s all part of the process of growing as a team.”

    • Joe Schmoe

      Looks like KW is maturing as a coach too…there was a time when he put his guys on blast to the media. He better knock it off or someone (someone other than SHU) is going to waive a seven figure contract in front of him…

  • Seton Hall up to a 6-seed in Des Moines against San Diego State in Jerry Palm’s latest bracket. Important thing about last night is they are now basically locked into not playing in the 8-9 game.

    Not to look ahead, but it makes a Sweet 16 run even more possible.

    • Hallbuster

      Any update on whitehead health following that fall?

      • Nothing here. Was immediately getting iced up, etc after game.

        Don’t think we’ll hear anything until last minute anyway. Would probably do walk-through even if he knew he wasn’t playing just to throw Xavier off.

        Will surely be very sore today.

        • Hallbuster

          Figured that thanks Chris. Thanks for a great job as always on this board

    • Matty P

      I’d definitely prefer to get that 6 seed and stay away from having to play a #2 seed in the second round. While I think we can hang with any team in the country I would rather stay away from the bigger teams until a couple rounds in.

    • Matty P

      No movement from Joe Lunardi on his bracket. Still a 7 seed playing in OKC. The thing that doesn’t make sense is he’s moved Providence down (or at least they have a down arrow) after they won pretty decisively against Butler yesterday.

    • Joe Schmoe

      http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaab/2016/03/11/ncaa-tournament-bracketology-projecting-field-68-bubble-teams-vanderbilt/81639524/
      This latest bracket has them playing sterling gibbs and the rest of the UCONN crew…. this would be interesting.

  • Hallbuster

    Special team, great coach. Both have matured. I’ll say it again. Has shades of pj era when his renewal was very much in doubt and then he and the team exploded. Was at the garden last night and it was awesome. Place was rocking for the hall. Was like a home game. Walking out after the game people were literally cheering in the streets. Something special is in the air. Need more people like Steve Lavin who said we would lose this game and the ap writers who never even came close to giving us a ranking this year to continue to doubt us because it fuels this team. Scary how good they are getting with every game. Let’s get it done tonight against X! Ps- we need u, the emotions are great but learn to control them and let it fuel u not distract u. U are a special player and with u at ur mental and physical best the sky is the limit

  • Andrew Herbst

    What a great win last night! So proud of our boys. Isiash has matured so much in a such a short time as well as Coach Willard.. Khadeen is extremely clutch and is not afraid to take the big shot. Can’t wait for tonight’s game. GO PIRATES.

  • VinBick

    Anyone else notice how ESPN shows little respect for the Big East in general, and the Big East Tournament specifically. Maybe it is because Fox Sports is airing all of the BE games?

    • Matty P

      I noticed it this morning as well. I would have liked to see us move up, but I understand that it was a win against a team with a close to 100 RPI. The thing that makes no sense is Providence gets a pretty convincing win against a Butler team that has been playing well and they move them down a spot.

      • LBP

        ESPN is really jealous about Fox line-up

  • fouline

    Great night for the program. Thanks guys… NEXT!

  • Mosleyman

    Good news, bad news…Zeke is playing so well, he’s forcing himself into more NBA discussion. Sure would be nice to have him here another year, though I guess it’s worth the price it he pushes us deeper into March.

  • shufaninva

    I see Zag says we got our first 2017 verbal. It’s going to be a Myles, Myles, Myles party come there. Hopefully we will be miles and miles and miles ahead of the rest of the BE teams by then. Wow that was corny. I am in such a good mood today!!!!!

    Go Pirates and Hazard Zet Forward.

  • Joe Schmoe

    Seton Hall isnt the home team. What uniforms are they wearing?

  • LBP

    Going to be fun tonite–DelGado’s time to shine. Hope the Refs let us play