You should know the narrative by now: Seton Hall’s defense turned things around after getting torched over the first 15 minutes of their 80-76 overtime win over Wichita State on Saturday in Newark.
But more specifically, how did they force a top-10 turnover percentage team to cough it up 21 times and shoot just 32-percent in the second half? Let’s take a look.
After starting the first half in zone looks that Kevin Willard later chalked up as his fault for getting too fancy, Seton Hall changed up their strategy for good coming out of halftime and it paid dividends.
As early as Wichita State’s first possession of the second half, Seton Hall’s defense was extended beyond the arc with junkyard dog Derrick Gordon on Fred VanVleet for most of the 30 seconds until the Shockers missed a three from the wing as the shot clock expired.
On Wichita State’s second possession and the first of ten key defensive moments between Gordon and forward Ish Sanogo, Gordon then attempted to take a charge that forced VanVleet off balance and allowed Isaiah Whitehead to block his shot in the lane.
This may have been the turning point of the entire game, but it certainly locked Seton Hall in defensively; both coaches and players agreed on it.
“Derrick Gordon was the key to it, he took the first step defensively, his defense was phenomenal on VanVleet,” said Willard post-game yesterday. “I think when he picked up his defense I think we picked up our defense and we made a turn for the better.”
“I’ve never seen him like that,” said Khadeen Carrington of Gordon, who subbed in for him after Carrington picked up his fourth foul early in the second half. “He was locked in today, he’s our defensive leader. He started the defensive intensity and everybody followed from there.”
Newark native Ish Sanogo wasn’t far behind Gordon in terms of setting the tone defensively. The 6-8 sophomore was consistently guarding smaller guys all game long whether it was Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, Conner Frankamp or Evan Wessel. Sanogo ripped the ball out of a Wichita State player’s hands several times yesterday including twice in overtime to go along with a sound nine-rebound showing on the boards.
“He adds a level of defense that we haven’t had at that spot since I’ve been here,” said Willard of Ish’s presence at the four. Willard has consistently spoken highly of his undersized four’s improvement this season after logging just 96 minutes a year ago.
Don’t get me wrong, it was certainly a team effort on the defensive end yesterday — Angel Delgado shuffled his feet several times to force Wichita State players to turn it over on the baseline, Whitehead notched a few blocks from behind and Desi Rodriguez straight up blocked a Ron Baker three-point attempt — but the following ten moments (in sequential order) were when Gordon and Sanogo came up big for their team.
No. 10 (40-32 WSU) – Already mentioned above, Gordon nearly drew a charge on VanVleet but instead it put him off-balance and allowed a Whitehead block
No. 9 – (43-34) – Two possessions later, Gordon deflected a VanVleet pass in the lane to force a TO
No. 8 – (43-36) – After Delgado forced a missed shot, Wichita State collected the air ball but Ish Sanogo stealthily stole the ball from Rashard Kelly on the perimeter
Now in the midst of several straight possessions that Seton Hall locked down Wichita State with the game at 43-36, this is when I truly think the Hall believed they could win.
No. 7 (43-36) – Khadeen Carrington picks up his fourth foul but Gordon comes in off the bench and immediately draws a charge on Baker. Crucial.
No. 6 (46-36) – It wasn’t purely defense, but Gordon went flying into the Wichita State bench to try and alter a corner three-point attempt in transition then sprinted down the court and got hammered on a drive to the basket. Hustle play.
No. 5 (51-46) – Immediately following Desi Rodriguez’ two-handed flush, Gordon drew a charge on VanVleet to bring the game to the under-12 media timeout and the Prudential Center crowd to their feet.
No. 4 (54-50) – Similar to No. 9, Gordon got his mitts on a Baker pass in the lane for a steal.
No. 3 (70-69, OT) – Skipping ahead to overtime, Sanogo simply took the ball from Evan Wessel around mid court with the Pirates down by a point early in the extra period.
No. 2 (70-75, OT) – For those that missed the game, I’m not making this up: Ish yet again stripped a Shocker when he ripped the ball from Ron Baker feet from Gregg Marshall to really put the Hall in a great position to win.
No.1 (73-76, OT) – Last but certainly not least, Derrick Gordon played strong defense on VanVleet’s last touch of the game to force a tough runner. Wichita State was anything but done at this point and VanVleet was surely looking to get to the line; the point guard would foul out on Seton Hall’s next possession.
When asked after the game just how Seton Hall was able to out-gun a backcourt like Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, Gordon had all the verbal answers after showing the country how to do it on the court.
“You’ve just got to want it more. Those guys have been there, I’ve been around too, I’m in my fifth year and I’ve been to the tournament twice. I’m no rookie, I know what it takes to win games … I kept telling my teammates ‘We’re not losing this game, we just need to play with some heart and energy’ and that’s what we did. That’s one of the reasons why I came here, to be a leader of this team, to lead this team and win a lot of games and that’s what we did.”