It was far from pretty, but No. 20 Seton Hall clamped down defensively and rode Desi Rodriguez’s 27 points for a crucial rebound win over Vanderbilt.
Following an energetic start that was sparked in part by Ish Sanogo’s return to the starting lineup, Seton Hall (5-1) and Vanderbilt (2-4) fell into a lull late in the first half that carried over into the second.
The Commodores led by a point at the break despite not scoring for the final 4:27 of the first half while the Hall assisted on just three of 14 made field goals.
But the Pirates took a play out of their book from last night’s loss to Rhode Island and shut things down defensively in the second, invoking a 12:44 field goal drought for Vanderbilt after they had led Seton Hall 32-27 late in the first half.
In sum, the Commodores would score just four points in a near 14-minute stretch which allowed Seton Hall to lay enough grease down on the tracks to coast comfortably to victory over the closing minutes.
It was a gritty win, but don’t put much stock into it. Maybe I’m catching Vanderbilt at a bad time, but having also watched some of their game against Virginia, I have no clue how they scored 89 against USC. Sure, Seton Hall stepped up defensively after a poor start to both games in Brooklyn, but Vanderbilt shot itself in the foot time and time again and was far from impressive.
How would have tonight turned out if not for Desi Rodriguez? As you will see below, Kevin Willard praised Khadeen Carrington (1p, 3a), but the offensive approach left me scratching my head too many times tonight. Ball movement took a distinct dip over the last two games and I wonder if that’s due to tougher competition. Seton Hall had just three assists in the first half despite Rodriguez taking (and making) a handful of ill-advised shots. Myles Powell scored an inefficient 11 points which included a barrage of off-balanced threes; I don’t think he’s at the level yet where he can let his decision-making guard down.
Credit Willard for making the switch. He strongly hinted at it post-Rhode Island and pulled the trigger tonight by switching Ish Sanogo (4p, 8r) for Mike Nzei (8p, 4r) in the starting lineup. It won’t affect overall minutes that much, but Sanogo’s active hands defensively certainly made a different early on. He hasn’t played at the level he is capable of this season — he should get the chance to prove his worth again over the coming games.
And a bonus: the preseason NIT needs an overhaul. Between the tip times, venue, and TV platform, the brand needs a new paint job. Willard had a great closing remark on his AM 970 radio interview — “I told the scorekeeper, I’m usually in bed by 10:30. I don’t know what to do. I guess this is what young people do at night.”
On bouncing back: “It’s obviously important. You don’t want to go home 0-2. After watching the film last night and realizing we were so close in the last four minutes and had so many opportunities, I kind of relaxed a little bit. A hard-fought neutral site game. If we played a little better, we would have obviously won. I loved their attitude today in film this morning. We watched a lot of film on us this morning, it was the first time we hadn’t really watched an opponent.”
On defense stepping up: “I really thought we did a great job of getting them out of a rhythm. Our press is not designed to turn you over, but to speed you up and wear you down … I thought Angel [Delgado] was the best I’ve seen him play defense in his career. He was unbelievable stepping up, his post defense was really good … Early on he had a couple miscues but I was really happy with the way he bounced back.”
On Khadeeen Carrington (1p, 3a) struggling offensively: “I told Khadeen, ‘Man I’m proud of you, that’s the first time I thought I’ve had a point guard so far’, he looked at me like I was nuts. I said ‘You changed the tempo defensively from the start.’ He picked up full court, he picked up in the press. ‘When you do that, your offensive game is going to struggle. But you affected the game in a dramatic fashion. That’s what good point guards do.’ We’re not there yet with him offensively, but Isaiah went through the same thing when he transitioned his sophomore year. Isaiah wasn’t killing it the first ten games, he was really struggling. I told him ‘You’re going through the same thing. People are double teaming you now. But for the first thing you dug in and showed what you’re all about defensively.’ I think he did a good job of setting the mindset defensively, and that’s what point guards do.”
When asked about Eron Gordon’s (4a, 0 TOs) contribution: “I talked to E.G., I think E.G. gets a little worried about making a mistake. I said that’s not why you come out, you come out because you’re like vanilla toast. You’re just out there. I don’t need toast, I need a blueberry muffin. I need us some pop. I thought he played with good energy, four assists no turnovers and he gave us a lift.”