NEWARK – Seton Hall used two first half runs, a career-high 27 points and 12 boards from Desi Rodriguez, and stifling defense to build a 19-point halftime lead that was never truly threatened en route to an unbelievable 90-81 win over No. 5 Xavier on Senior Day at Prudential Center that surely seals their first NCAA bid in a decade.
Rodriguez was joined by Angel Delgado (17 pts, 8 rebs) , who played one of his best offensive games in a Pirate uniform and Isaiah Whitehead (22 pts, 5 asts), as the trio combined for 66 of Seton Hall’s 90 points.
In what looked like carryover from a tremendous Senior Day ceremony for Derrick Gordon (8 pts, 6 rebs) before the game, Seton Hall scored the first nine points of the game before Xavier hit a pair of threes and then went 1-3-1 zone to bog down their high-tempo-minded hosts and leech some momentum back.
Leading 26-21 at the under-eight, it seemed like we were in for the conventional back-and-forth game that was expected pre-game, but Seton Hall switched it into a gear that we perhaps haven’t seen in many years.
Displaying some rare three-quarter court pressure that doubled down on incredible Ish Sanogo defense on Trevon Bluiett, Seton Hall turned an outstanding first half defensive performance into a 19-5 run to close the half and hold the Musketeers to their lowest first half scoring total of the season; Xavier scored just three points over the closing 7:40.
Leading 45-26 coming out of the break, Xavier came out with a surge and appeared to be on their way back into the game by mounting an 8-3 run with Isaiah Whitehead glued to the bench due to a bloody knee injury, but again it was Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado who led the Seton Hall offensive charge.
The forward duo scored Seton Hall’s first 13 points of the second half including countless highlight reel slams from Desi to hold a better but not good enough Xavier at bay and provide an 18-point advantage with 12 to play that was never truly threatened.
Now locked into third in the conference and with their largest regular season win total since the 1992-93 season, Seton Hall (21-7, 11-5) looks likely to crack the Top-25 tomorrow and should slide up a couple seeds in projected NCAA tournament brackets. The Pirates head to Indianapolis for a clash with bubble-ridden Butler on Wednesday.