Career day from Desi Rodriguez for naught as Seton Hall falters at No. 5 Xavier 84-76

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A 21-7 second half run and 40 points from Xavier’s bench overpowered a career-high 21 points and 8 rebounds from Desi Rodriguez as No. 5 Xavier dispatched of Seton Hall 84-76 on Saturday afternoon.

The Hall clawed within a single point at 50-49 early in the second half but Xavier exploited the paint and assisted on 21 of 30 baskets to fend off their guests. Forward James Farr (24 pts, 13 rebs) and Sean O’Mara (9 pts) were huge off of Chris Mack’s bench while Isaiah Whitehead (15 pts, 6-20 fg, 5 asts, 5 TOs) struggled, especially over the opening 20 minutes.

Seton Hall jumped out to a 9-6 lead by snaring five early offensive rebounds against Xavier’s pesky 1-3-1 zone but fell into an offensive lull midway through the first half with Angel Delgado (7 pts, 7 rebs) sidelined with two fouls.

The visitors had to deal with a 4-minute field goal drought and turned it over 7 times over the first 10 minutes of the game, quickly surpassing the 6 turnovers they committed during the entire game against Villanova.

Up against the ropes with Xavier leading 28-22, Desi Rodriguez registered two quick baskets and personally sparked a 10-3 Pirate run that helped Kevin Willard’s team score 14 points over the final 4:30 of the half to see them trail 40-36 despite a less-than-stellar first 20 minutes.

“His whole high school career he played the 4 and the 5. He enjoys contact, he has no fear of being in the lane,” said Xavier coach Chris Mack of Rodriguez. “Sometimes you tip your cap to the player … he’s a big time player.”

Seton Hall cut their deficit to just 1 at 50-49 coming out of the under-16 media timeout following an instant 8-3 run that featured nifty passing from Isaiah Whitehead and a key basket by Rodriguez, but Xavier would have none of it in front of a sellout crowd of 10,250 at the Cintas Center.

The Musketeers rattled off a 21-7 run as an immediate response to the Hall’s surge and wouldn’t look back over the final eight minutes; Xavier’s lead didn’t slip into the single digits until a meaningless basket on Seton Hall’s last possession of the day.

Three takeaways:

Seton Hall’s defense wasn’t what we’ve been accustomed to seeing. Granted Xavier is a very good team, the Hall didn’t defend well at all today. Mental lapses like giving up a transition three to Myles Davis just prior to the first under-eight timeout and straight-up mismatches in the paint against a much better Xavier front line exposed Seton Hall.

Isaiah Whitehead was not great and Seton Hall’s offense struggled at times because of it. Whitehead showed flashes of brilliance – mostly after halftime – but ultimately did not have a memorable day against Xavier. Isaiah took a handful of ill-advised shots and turned it over five times against a Remy Abell and a Muskie defense that is 21st in efficiency and shut down Sterling Gibbs last season.

Xavier’s superior depth was blatant today. Winning the bench production battle 40-12 is pretty much all you need to say, but I’ll break it down. When starters Jalen Reynolds and Angel Delgado both picked up two quick fouls, I noted that the battle in the paint was going to drastically change. Little did I know…

Reynolds, Farr and Sean O’Mara are simply a better forward trio than Angel Delgado, Ismael Sanogo and Mike Nzei/Braeden Anderson/Rashed Anthony, which was put on full display following Delgado’s second foul. It’s hard to fault the three Pirates, two of which are essentially freshmen this season, when they’re battling a senior, junior and sophomore.

  • Andrew Herbst

    Tough loss today. Xavier was too much for us to handle on the boards. They have more depth than we do and it showed today. However, I’m not too discouraged by this loss. We played well and showed we can compete with Xavier. We have shown that we can hang in there and beat some of the best teams in the BE. 3-4 is what I expected after first 7 games in conference. We have to take advantage of our weaker schedule coming up against St. John’s, Creighton, and Marquette. Still a lot of season left. GO PIRATES.

  • VinBick

    Time to regroup and beat up on a weak Johnnies team on Wednesday night at the Rock.

    The Xavier fans show how a hometown crowd can really show support for their team. Come on folks, join the Rock Lobsters and make lots of noise from start to finish Wednesday night!

  • Ryan Kelly

    Didn’t get to watch the game on tv. But from following the game tracker. It just seemed the D couldn’t step up and get the big stops. At times in the first half when we got it close. The D couldn’t get the stop or just as you’d expect from a top 5 team at home they make the play.

    My main gripe against Willard is that I don think he maximizes his talent. There are teams with less talented rosters that have better results. I thinks that’s indicative of his play calling and scheme but also I don’t know if he really relates well to players.

    I mean if I was coaching this team with this roster my approach would be very different. But alas I am not a coach, although I’d like to get into high school coaching.

    Gotta bounce back strong against the underbelly of the big east. Still plenty of chance against ranked teams Providence and Xaiver at home still and twice against Butler.

  • Fishjam

    Their big men absolutely destroyed us….DE-stroyed. It’s becoming too much of a familiar tone this year especially when Angel picks up 2 quick ones. I really don’t understand why Willard doesn’t try Braden Anderson more or even Myles Carter. Rashed Anthony gets killed by everyone yet he always gets minutes, 14 minutes today. James Farr was unstoppable….their 3 big men combined for 59 minutes, 39 points, 22 rebs & 3 Fouls. Our 5 bigs combined for 71 mins, 11 points, 19 rebs and 13 Fouls!

    The other issue was the terrible shot selection from Whitehead and to a lesser extent Carrington. Took far too many flat-footed 3’s. They showed they could break down the zone and get inside or find Desi on the baseline when they worked it but they seem to lack the mental or physical endurance to consistently work to find the right shots. 6 of 27 from 3 and that was after hitting 3 late in the game. STOP settling for quick, contested 3s!!!

    • Louie Dee

      I don’t under a lot of what this coach does. It makes no sense to me, and his substations make no sense. Just like last year, he would play Sina for almost the whole game yet sucked.

  • LBP

    Frankly I did not like the effort-way too easy for Xaiver to get inside and once inside Xavier looked like they had All- Americans ( which frankly they are not). Willard making more excuses about the schedule -this Team has to plsay hard all the time,not when it just chooses to.
    I also agree with Fishjam, Anthony is not ready- he is clumsy and fails to box out-let alone making stupid fouls with the shot clock running out- and on offense , he just can not catch ( let alone shoot)

    • Fishjam

      You are right LBP….the effort was not good today. As I mentioned they settled far too often for bad shots rather than work, make the extra pass and find a good shot. Desi was killing them along the baseline, I think he missed 1 shot in the first half….it was there all game against the 1-3-1 if they worked it and penetrated.

      As you said, they didn’t have the intensity on D they usually do. Way too often they left players wide open for dunks or easy looks from their big men. They also got beat down the floor on several occasions which is inexcusable. One time I almost flipped out as Carrington argued with an official after one of his bad shots while his man raced down the floor for an easy fast break layup.

      The last component that is an ongoing issue is FT shooting. For some reason it seems when they have games where their effort, focus and intensity aren’t up to par, their FT shooting also suffers. After good shooting at PROV and vs Nova, they were back to sub-60% again today. 10 for 19 (52%) including front end 1 and 1 misses again doesn’t cut in close games.

  • Louie Dee

    Gordon should have been benched. He played horrible today, and was obviously still emotionally hurt from the Nova game. The coach should have recognized this.

    This team has great talent just horrible coaching. Syracuse with Jim B. is a different team, and a perfect example of what I’m taking about.

    • Fishjam

      Wasn’t one of Gordon’s better games but I don’t think there was a better option on the bench since they only have 3 Guards in their rotation. Whitehead played the entire game (39 mins) and Khadeen picked up his 2nd foul just 7 minutes into the game (AGAIN) so he had to sit for a big chunk of the 1st half. I guess you could call Singh a guard but they couldn’t afford not to have 2 able ball handlers on the floor at all times with Xavier’s trapping 1-3-1.

  • VinBick

    This team may still be a contender in the Big East and may have a shot at the Big Dance. There are seven or eight games in conference that are still possible wins.
    With a couple of wins in the Big East Garden Party in March, this is a dancing team.

    Such a result saves Willard’s job, so you know he is working overtime with his assistants. Do these players have the heart to play strong for the rest of the season? We will know how tough they are on Wednesday night. A 20 point win is realistic. Go Pirates!

  • fouline

    At this point… It would take more than losses to get Willard out. He’s like Trump. He could walk down 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and he wouldn’t lose support from the administration. After each lose we can pick apart the play of the team but underneath it all… we know… so many losses can be laid at the feet of Willard and Company.

  • Fishjam

    Overall, this team has pretty much been what I expected so far this season. They are talented but with literally only 1 upperclassman in their top 9, the results are going to be inconsistent. This is what you get when you have 2 years of falled recruiting classes and 2 starters transfer.

    They have now come through the toughest part of the schedule where they lost 4 of 5…Creighton was a bad loss, Providence was a good win. The 3 losses to top 5 in the nation teams won’t hurt them but they are now at the point in the season where the excuses are over and they must rack up some W’s. They play 4 of their next 5 at home against really good teams (except St Johns) but nobody great. The key thing is if this team can keep up their intensity and effort because EVERY one of these teams can and will beat them if they come out flat again. They must bring the effort they brought vs Nova and Providence to these games or their season will be lost.

    Not only are these next 5 important for their own record, they are also going head to head against the 4 league teams they are fighting for a Tournament berth with. Creighton, GTown, Marquette & Butler all have 13-14 wins like us and all have at least 1 good win. If season ended today, the Pirates would get in the top 68 on most every projection I’ve seen. It’s up to them if they can keep it that way. Starts with the Johnnies who they cannot take lightly…they will be pumped up to get their 1st win and will have a lot of their fans in the Rock.

    • Biff Roughneck

      Creighton was NOT a bad loss, and SJU will NOT have a lot of their fans at the Rock.

  • PadrePirate

    Pirates must take at least 7 of remaining 11 games to Dance. 20-10 is certainly doable if they keep intensity and focus. Splitting with Butler and Xavier would clinch it, even if we blow it once against one of the lower tier teams.

    Looks like depth could prove to be a serious issue down the stretch. A 6 man team is not going to cut it most games. Got to find a way to get more out of the bench F’s. Nzei has contributed but Anthony-Anderson-Carter haven’t. Veer has a long way to go IMO. Still, these guys aren’t going develop without some playing time. Wish KW would try some different looks until he finds the right formula to back up Desi, Ish.