Three Thoughts, Three Quotes: No. 20 Seton Hall smothers Vanderbilt in 72-59 bounce-back win

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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. 

Three Thoughts:

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.”

Three Quotes:

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.”

And-one:

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.”

  • Willard on Desi: “Desi bounced back. He didn’t play overly well last night and he knew it. That’s where his maturity has really grown as a player. He’s embracing going inside and attacking the rim and posting up again and not just living on the 3-point line. I love the way he gave us a real physical start to the offensive game, he gave us a chance to get off to a good start.”

  • LBP

    Nice work Chris– Hall played hard and tons of stuff to work on — If I told anyone pre-Game that Deeno would score 1 with 3 assists; Team would shoot 4 for 18 on 3s ; go 14 for 24 on FTs and lose the Team Rebounds 39 to 33 — I doubt I could explain it was a fairly easy win—

  • Louie Dee

    The walk-on had more points than KC lol.

    The bench won us the game.

  • Mike Walsh

    Was very impressed how the team played with 4 seniors on the bench. Mamu, Powell, Cale, Gordon and Nzie played great together.

  • Joseph Attanasi

    Will this team ever be able to shoot free throws consistently? They better figure it out, because 50 something % isn’t going to cut it. We need to at least be in the low 70’s.

    There was a stretch latter in the second half when Desi went 0-4 and Khadeen went 1-3. These two guys have to be better than that if we are going to win close games. We’ve already lost one game because of poor FT shooting and I can see several more of those type losses coming if we don’t improve in this area.

    • Matty P

      Unfortunately I think it’s unlikely for this team to reach the 70% threshold. From looking at kenpom Willard has only had one team shoot greater than 70% (2013-2014). So that makes me tend to think that the players he recruits aren’t great FT shooters.

      The main reason I don’t think we’ll hit 70% is based on the players who have taken the majority of the FTs this season. Our top 5 foul shooters are: 1) Delgado (37 FTA) – has been shooting it better but is still just below 60%, 2) Desi (23 FTA) – just below 70% this season but has never been above 70% any other season, 3) Powell (13 FTA) – doesn’t get to the line at a high rate since he’s typically on the perimeter, 4) Carrington (12 FTA) – a 75% FT shooter who could boost the number above 70% but he hasn’t been getting to the line at the same rate as previous seasons, and 5) Nzei (12 FTA) – a sub 60% shooter. So unless guys like Carrington and Powell start to get to the line more often it’s unlikely to get to 70%.

      • PadrePirate

        I would guess that it’s not a question of KW recruiting poor FT shooters. If FTs have been poor throughout the Willard Era, that tells me that he doesn’t emphasize it enough and doesn’t push his guys to improve in that area.

        • Joseph Attanasi

          Yes, it does appear to indicate a lack of emphasis by Willard on the importance of FT shooting. If you practice enough and have the dedication and desire to improve, then everyone should be able to shoot at least 70%.

        • Matty P

          I took a closer look at the FT numbers for the players since Willard has taken over at SHU. The interesting thing was that more often than not players FT% increased from their Freshman or when they joined SHU to Senior year. The most dramatic increases were from Delgado (18%), Edwin (14%), Pope (12%) and Teague (10%). The unfortunate thing is that even with these increases each of these players except for Edwin still shot well below 70% and were more often than not the player who took the most or 2nd most FTs which will drag the team percentage down.

          • PadrePirate

            Nice research. Maybe there’s hope. When I played in school, sometimes coach wouldn’t let us leave until we made a certain number of FTs. I guess coaches only have so much practice time, but FTs are something players can practice on their own. Then, there’s the mental side…Maybe KW needs to invest in some group therapy or “mindfulness” seminars for our guys 🙂

          • Joe Schmoe

            Growing up I knew a guy who could hit 100 in a row @ practice in the gym. Come game time he was 50/50

          • Louie Dee

            The common denominator seems to be the coaching not the players.

            I wonder if you add all the players under Willards coaching years, whats the average FT %? All those players with under 70% FT, somethings not right.

            It’s time to start throwing Granny style FT. Remember the guy at University of Florida, at last years thanksgiving game, he was throwing Granny Style and never missed.

    • Sportzdoc

      Thought we lost the game because of a turnover with under a minute (up one point), and then allowing the opponent to drive and score.

      • Joseph Attanasi

        The turnover and the last second shot would not have mattered at all if we just made our FT’s. If we shot 70 something % instead of 50 something %, we win the game.

  • Andrew Herbst

    It wasn’t a pretty game, but we’ll take it. Proud of Desi for stepping up with Khadeem having an off night. Loved how the bench came together. Nzei was outstanding. Hopefully we can take these next few games to regroup and come back stronger against Texas Tech on Thursday. GO PIRATES.

  • VinBick

    A win is a win! Will take it, in spite of some strange stats. Coach seems to be covering for a poor performance by KC. Why does he duck down into the corner so much as a point guard? The big guys at the top of the key appear to be setting up the offense more often than KC.

    Gotta love Desi’s play. Our guardian Angel and Desi need some more contributions from the rest of the starting crew. Seven more games of tinkering by the coaching staff to get the team ready for the Big East grind.

    Hope this weekend is spent in the gym at the foul line. Doesn’t practice help overcome a weakness?

  • regularJoe2

    DesI was also playing point forward for many possessions to give KC a break from bringing the ball up. Desi really did it all last night.

  • cali jack

    Shaping up to be another year of winning ugly which is OK.Play great defense and rebound.Translates into a bunch of wins but will have difficulty with really skilled teams.Foul shooting is not going to improve.This is who we are.Actually,KW is doing a disservice to KC playing him at PG.Not only is he not a place setter but it significantly detracts from his offense. Unfortunately,he doesn’t have better options at this point.Can’t wait for JW to get back .We’ll have to live with his mistakes for a while.Sanogo should stop taking 15 footers until he can make 1 footers consistently around the basket. Desi is a lot more effective when he spends more time down low.

    • PadrePirate

      KC is just not a distributor. Averaged 5.5 A’s the first four games vs weaker opponents, but just 2.5 A’s the last two games. Seemed a little lost last night, more of a PG by committee. JW will likely bring more TO’s but remains the only natural PG we have on the roster. Unfortunately, these guys are going to have to work out the kinks against two tough teams next week. A split would be great. They have a lot of work to do, if they want to remain top 25.

  • shufaninva

    I need a blueberry muffin lol
    Fan freakin tastic

  • z06

    Need to make foul shots when the big East Begins

    • Joe Schmoe

      Not what this team does….

      • Joseph Attanasi

        No excuse. If you’re going to be a good team, you need to shoot your FT’s well. They’re Division 1 college basketball players and they’re good enough to figure it out.

  • Joe Schmoe

    Lost the ranking with the loss to URI… Now facing a ranked Texas Tech and ranked Louisville this week…..

  • PadrePirate

    Good opportunity tonight for Xavier for a quality W vs Baylor. Our chance will come this WE with Lville and TTech, both top 25 teams. Overall, the BE teams have fared pretty well on their OOC’s. Gtown has scheduled only cupcakes (except Syracuse) but most other teams have had some nice wins. DePaul has some resume losses

    • Joe Schmoe

      Hate to say it this early…but Texas Tech and Louisville are going to be “must wins”. Texas tech hasnt really played any tough games yet. and we need a quality road “W”

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