Five thoughts, five quotes: Seton Hall digs deep to knock off Wichita State 80-76 in OT

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Seton Hall played the best 30 minutes of basketball that I’ve seen in quite some time to climb out of a 13-point first half deficit and notch a huge resume win over Wichita State in overtime. The Pirates clamped down on defense in the second half and we’re able to sustain several Shocker punches late in the game to pull out a potential pivotal 80-76 win.

My five initial thoughts on the win and a bunch of quotes from Kevin Willard, Khadeen Carrington and Derrick Gordon.

Five thoughts (and one):

Defense won this game. Seton Hall shot itself in the foot for most of the first half by starting zone (more on this in the quotes), but I felt when they got something like five consecutive stops early in the second half when the deficit was at seven, they really started to believe they could win this game.

Ish Sanogo ripped the ball out of Ron Baker’s hands down the stretch and I believe he did the same against Evan Wessel. He was matched up against smaller guys for most of the game and was huge along with Derrick Gordon’s on-ball defense against Baker and VanVleet. Wichita State had the 6th-best turnover percentage coming into the game so forcing 21 turnovers, 15 of which came after the half, is significant.

Desi Rodriguez is really developing into a gamer. I had to Google research Desi after he committed to Seton Hall a few years ago because I had no idea who he was. There was little to find on him outside of being a raw but freakish athlete; he’s come a long way over the past season and a half. He had a key 6-0 run just by himself in the second half that was capped off by his two-handed flush that drove the crowd into a frenzy. He can score in a ton of ways including from beyond the arc and is really having a breakout sophomore season.

Speaking of the crowd, those who showed up were tremendous. The Rock was still shockingly only about 70-percent full, but the fans that did show up were loud thanks to the players giving them something to get off their rear-ends and cheer for. The student section was tremendous again and the students dressed as lobsters/Santa in the front row were mentioned in one of Seton Hall’s huddles. I almost feel bad for the “fans” who could have been at the game but chose not to, but I don’t — they missed a good one.

This is a resume win. Ole Miss is quietly developing into a solid win, but Seton Hall really needed this game if they to be a player come Selection Sunday and the players knew that. Wichita State is a household name for anyone that follows college hoops (especially the committee) and more importantly this boosts the team’s confidence heading into conference play.

Angel Delgado dug deep today. He started the game with a ton of energy but missed several shots in the paint while Shaq Morris took it to him on the other end of the court, but he turned things around. Delgado scored all but 2 of his points after the opening 16 minutes and was able to stay in the game while guys like Morris and Anton Grady were in foul trouble late and in OT. That was Angel’s fourth-straight double-double.

Seton Hall could have folded. After taking the lead 55-54, Conner Frankamp reeled off eight-straight points to give Wichita State a seven-point lead with over four to play. At that point, I thought the game was done and dusted — the Shockers have been around the block and then some, they don’t give up those types of leads easily. Desi Rodriguez and Whitehead combined for eight points on their next four possessions to put the Hall back within one and the rest is history.

Five quotes (and some bonuses):

Kevin Willard on the poor defense early (mostly due to zone): “The first half was all my fault. I had too much time to watch film and tried to be creative. I tried to confuse [Wichita State] and I ended up confusing our guys. In the second half, we got back to being real simple, doing the things we’re good at defensively.”

Willard on the team’s progression today: “We have a long way to go. The most I’m going to take out of this is in the past we’ve been knocked down and we’ve run for the hills. [Wichita State] came out and knocks us down and for the first time what I saw was guys taking a step towards the fight. That’s as important as anything.”

Khadeen Carrington on the defense of Ish Sanogo and Derrick Gordon: “I’ve never seen him [Gordon] like that. He was locked in today, he’s our defensive leader. He started the defensive intensity and everybody followed from there. Ish got some big stops, some big rebounds and I just kept telling him on the floor ‘Keep doing it bro, this is going to be a big win for us’”

Carrington on the post-game locker room being a party: “A little bit. Every time we get a big win like that, Coach comes in and he kind of screams and we kind of jump on him [laughs].”

Derrick Gordon on the post-game emotion + locker room: “Great, it felt great, honestly. I didn’t know if I was going to get another shot at them, so to beat a team like that, for us to beat them it’s definitely going to help our resume come tournament time. I’m excited, Coach came into the locker room after the game, we we’re jumping around. I’ve never seen Coach Willard like that after a game, so when he’s doing that it’s a great sign. He was jumping around, we we’re slapping his head and stuff like that. We don’t really get to do that but when we win games that’s the time when we can do it.”

Gordon on his experience at Seton Hall so far: “I love it here, the things that I’ve experienced here, I didn’t really experience at my past schools. Just how it is here, how everybody interacts, and how it is on the court, I really love it. I don’t care about the whole starting thing, I really don’t. At the beginning I was a little concerned about it, [but] when you win it makes things that much better. You love your teammates that much more for that because they’re going to have your back, so I’m happy.”

  • earmbrister

    Great win today. The Defense was key in the 2nd half, and it was really encouraging that they didn’t fold after going down by 7, immediately after getting the lead by 1.

    When Carrington got into foul trouble, Desi really stepped up his game. I liked Willard riding Delgado about his D, particularly in the first half.

    Quality win for the Pirates. Looking forward to the Big East.

  • Matty P

    Nice job by the team today to keep fighting back. I thought after that first half of might have been a long game, but I’m glad I was wrong. I was impressed with Carrington and how he played after picking up that 4th foul. The fact that he stayed in the game so long without picking one up considering some of the touchy calls today was impressive.

  • Fishjam

    Extraordinary team effort to come back several times. Very sluggish start due to some missed shots in the paint and playing terrible defensively. They were out of position many times in the 1st half leading to easy WS points.
    The comeback was all spearheaded by the defensive intensity in the 2nd half. Gordon and Ish really got the team going and everyone chipped in on defense. They both took turns on Baker and really locked him up. Gordon pulled down a HUGE rebound in the final minutes of OT, outjumoing and muscling 2 much larger players. When he came down he swung his elbows and inadvertently knocked Baker to the ground but it was after he was fouled by a WS player in the process.
    After making the long comeback and finally taking a 1-point lead, WS immediately went back up by 7 when Freinkamp got hot. Past teams probably would have packed it in at that point but this team dug deep, got 2 big 3s from Desi & IW and rode their defense the rest of the way. SHowed me a lot of character and effort there and gives me optimism that this group has some intestinal fortitude to deal with adversity and keep fighting.

  • iratepirate

    One of the best games I’ve seen from the Pirates. Amazing. Such an enigma this team is. One assist in the first half, and then they put their hearts on their sleeves and DOMINATE. I hope they learn a lot from this. I hope the coach does too. Enough with the fancy stuff. This team was meant for MAN2MAN defense. Then let Desi take over and wait for the SportsCenter clip.

  • Little insight: Seton Hall’s players were very slow to arrive to the media lounge post-game (understandably, we could here the post-game music blaring). Derrick Gordon was the last to arrive after most media had left, it was just Jerry Carino, John Fanta (Pirate Sports Network) and I speaking with him.

    He was genuinely so happy about today’s result; I brought up how he had mentioned this game after the Wagner game in early November. Grinning at every chance, wasn’t hitting talking points but speaking from the heart. Had a hell of a game coming in for Carrington when he was in foul trouble and played like a graduate senior. When speaking with Khadeen, you could tell he was very appreciative and felt bailed out by Gordon.

    • Quote from Derrick when I asked him about the atmosphere: “Yeah, it was crazy. I wasn’t planning to dunk [the go-ahead 55-54 basket], I caught that dunk on the fast break, the adrenaline was just going. I love playing in an atmosphere like this, it’s great, it definitely gets me pumped up, just to see everybody that came out and showed their support, I hope every game in Big East play is like that.”

      • PadrePirate

        The quotes from DG speak volumes about the team spirit that is being built this year. Just think how low we sunk last year in that respect, with the dissension, bickering and departures. It’s great to hear a kid say “I love playing here”. W’s like this and positive attitudes like that will bring in recruits.

      • Matty P

        Gordon with the slam.

  • Andrew Herbst

    Great win today. One of the best wins we’ve had in a program. So proud of the effort we showed after all of the adversity we faced. We stuck together and didn’t give up. Willard deserves a lot of credit and had a terrific game plan. I think we’ll build off this win. We need to have the same level of intensity against South Florida on Tuesday. GO PIRATES.

  • SHULaw05

    What a thriller! Fantastic game from all of our Pirates! I’m sure the prospective recruits in attendance went home with a memorable experience. Must focus on the next game against USF, as mentioned below. Great job Pirates! Go Hall!

    • I’ve already heard a few people cautious about USF. That’s fine, but this is a pretty bad USF, especially now that PG Roddy Peters is out with a foot injury. *Should* win comfortably.

      • SHULaw05

        After such a terrific win yesterday, we will welcome a tune-up game that we can build additional momentum leading into BE play. Still ecstatic from yesterday’s win! Thanks for providing such great coverage, Chris!

  • PadrePirate

    Absolutely love to see/hear this kind of team spirit. Quotes from DG are fabulous. Also great to hear KW admit his mistake and learn from exp what kind of D this team can run.
    Hopefully, this will be a turning point kind of win, solidifying the guys together, building confidence, etc. If they play with that same 2nd half intensity from here on out, this could definitely be a tourney bid team. Watching the early games, I didn’t think they had it in them, but they seem to be improving, and it’s becoming fun to watch.

    One thing Chris didn’t mention here is the positive impact this win could have on all those recruits present at this game. That will definitely stick in their memories. Hopefully, they’ll walk away from this thinking “this is a place I’d love to play”.

  • Matty P

    A post game clip of Willard talking to the team after the big win.

  • Hallbuster

    Hats off to Willard and the team. This team is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. We got Dr Jekyll today. Hopefully Willard builds off this and keeps them playing like the thoroughbred athletes they are and avoids going back to Willard ball. After getting my hopes up last season only to have them smashed I don’t want to get too excited but it certainly confirms this team”s potential. I think it will be willards (final) test to see if he can keep up this level of play and not revert

  • SHULaw05

    Here is the link for a video recap of the game. Isaiah gave a terrific interview at the end of the video wherein he credited his teammates for the win. Well stated in the interview IW! This looks to be a very tight and cohesive unit! Go Pirates!

  • fouline

    After watching the game I didn’t feel it measured up to what i expected. Fun, yes. Great, no. It wasn’t the high profile win as some are talking about. It was a win over an equal. Wichita State was not the same team they were in years past. If fact they played just as inconsistently as we did. Only difference is… we WON! We WON!! We WON!!!

  • Coach Mike

    Being at the game, and a 20 yr season ticket holder I bring the following points – place was rocking but one good win does not make up for all the sins of the past – a team like WSt should have been a complete sell out…but this program has miles to go. This program has teased and then disappointed in the past…hopeful it can play with this intensity going forward. One assist, leaving the WSt best shooters open when doubling down in the zone and five missed chippies in the first half…hmmm. Chris you do a great job and regarding your interviews – we will see if the team has turned over a new leaf. Could this be the first win when they had a towel giveaway?

  • Fishjam

    One thing that you can judge better by watching games live at the arena is the physical size of players. It’s always easy to pick out who the upperclassmen are because they are physically more mature as there is a big difference in a 19 year old kid and a 21-22 year old man. It’s easy to forget that with the exception of Gordon, every regular Pirate player is a Soph or Freshman. Van Vleet and Baker were so much thicker than our guards and I noticed the same thing last year in BE play. Really makes me hope this group stays together next year and beyond as they could be special.