Five Thoughts, Five Quotes: A closer look at Seton Hall’s heart-filled win over No. 22 Texas Tech

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NEW YORK CITY — Seton Hall looked like a complete team on Thursday night in a passion-filled win over Texas Tech in what resembled a second round NCAA tournament game.

Five thoughts:

Seton Hall won without relying on Angel Delgado… sort of. His stats (12p, 5r) aren’t impressive at surface level and the big man only took eight shots, good enough for fourth on the team. Kind of odd for a preseason All-American candidate, right? Credit to Texas Tech: Norense Odiase & Co. were able to double him quickly, didn’t allow him position on the low block, but Delgado was the lynch pin for an inside-out approach that Kevin Willard was very fond of post-game. Let’s not forget that Angel also recorded three of each steals, assists and blocks.

Just how good is Desi Rodriguez becoming? A lot of us, myself included, are still stuck in the mindset of viewing him as a high volume shooter that takes low percentage shots, but the stats don’t back that up so far — outside of the Brooklyn games; Desi is 11-of-19 from three and hasn’t missed more than one free throw in a game. We may be seeing more “Seton Hall is X-X when Desi Rodriguez scores Y” stats as the season goes on.

I’ll say it again: the offense was pretty darn good. I harped on it in my preview, I mentioned it in my rapid reaction, but now I have the cold hard facts — and they’re impressive. 1.24 points per possession, 60-percent assist rate, 55-percent from three, 41-percent offensive rebounding. The first two numbers are the best this season outside of Fairleigh Dickinson and NJIT, respectively. It’s safe to say Texas Tech is a lot better defensively than both of those two teams.

Kevin Willard shortened his bench tonight. Only 35 minutes were played off the bench, although they were a fairly impactful 35. In the most anonymous but helpful showing of the year, Eron Gordon hit two corner threes in the first half, while Mike Nzei scored seven and added four boards in a familiar sixth-man role while Ish Sanogo logged the heavier minutes of the two. The altered rotation was surely due to the “bye week” rest allowing Willard to do so, but stiffer competition in a neutral venue isn’t the best time to rely on freshman, see: Myles Cale’s first half learning experience when he missed a fast break opportunity and was lost on a double screen the next defensive possession.

Seton Hall upped it’s free-throw game when it counted. After a familiar 6-of-11 in the first half, they made seven of their first seven over the first five minutes of the second half en route to a 12-15 mark in the second period. One of those missed free throws made my game story. I would want Carrington, Rodriguez, and Powell to take free throws down the stretch of any clutch game, in that order.

Five Quotes from Kevin Willard:

Willard on how the team isn’t relying on Delgado anymore: “He’s become such a great passer. Defensively he’s become someone we can depend on and we don’t have to hide him. We still throw it to him a ton, but I think he understands that he has so many weapons around him that eventually teams are going to have to stop double-teaming him. I think he’s playing better than he did last year. I think the guys around him are working with him to make it easier for him.”

On Rodriguez elevating his play: “One of the biggest things that I’ve seen, he’s become a lot more consistent with his effort, his practice. When he’s passing the ball the way he did early on, it just gives us another guy to make plays. I think he has really elevated, he has worked hard, but most importantly he has become a very consistent worker. Just like all of these guys, they’re all workers. They’re all talented, but I think the biggest talent that they all have is that they all work, they all put the work in and work on their games.”

On what has been learned thus far this season & takeaways from tonight: “I’m learning a lot. Even though I didn’t play the freshmen a lot tonight, I’m getting confidence in every one of my players. But we have a long way to go … We have a lot left [to do], and the good thing about this team is they’re going to get a lot better. Defensively we’re going to get better, and I only see us getting better offensively as we evolve.

“I think the biggest thing, when I watched them on film, I thought this is one of the best teams we’re going to see all year. Just from a depth standpoint, [and] I think Evans is an elite guard right now, what he can do. I think the biggest thing moving forward, when we see teams that are deep, teams that play with a lot of motion that we can play with them and hang with them.”

On whether dropping out of the top 25 was a focal point during days off: “I don’t think so. The biggest thing we talked about all week was getting better spacing on offense. I really harped on these guys on that. Deeno and I watched a lot of film. I think he was a little down, thinking he wasn’t playing well. I had to show him he was playing great and really starting to evolve as a point guard. We had a one-point loss. A guy hit a tough shot on us. Then we bounced back against a good Vandy team. For me, we have a big week, let’s focus on Texas Tech. For the most part we focused on us, we didn’t do a whole lot of Texas Tech. That’s something I’ve done differently the past two years on bye weeks is getting us to focus on us.”

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