10 times Ismael Sanogo and Derrick Gordon came up big defensively in Seton Hall’s upset of Wichita State

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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.”

  • ThePirateFan

    Love the D!

    Ish is definitely underappreciated. Felt the same way last season when Ish D’ed up Roosevelt Jones. Him (and Nzei) getting minutes at the 4 allowing Desi (and his jumpshot – who knew!) to play the 3 is huge for this team.

  • Fishjam

    Good post Chris. I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere but the officials were calling a lot of ticky-tack fouls in this game, most of them off the ball. I know I’m biased but it seemed the Pirates were getting a lot of bad calls against them. Van Vleet & Baker had their elbows extending on offense the whole game yet did not get whistled for it. The fact that the Pirates were able to buckle down on defense and cause so many turnovers with the officials calling things so tight makes it even more impressive.

  • HallBall10

    I re-watched the game last night. My impression was wow DG did so many little things both offensively and defensively that led to us winning. Offensively he had a couple of nice drives, a couple of nice assists, and fed Delgado down low.
    KC and IW struggled some with turnovers or bad decision making in the 2nd half and DG stepped up.

  • iratepirate

    First game DG has shown why he is a top 150 talent and a big time player in my mind. I feel like the increase in physical players has shown why you always prefer a SLAM to a layup. Nothing gets players and fans PUMPED like a jam.

    This post was great, and I wanted to relive some of those possessions.

    Chris, why do we play zone? Is it the Willard-Pitino connection? Zone seems to only work when you’ve got 6-11 trees by the basket who can pluck out those rebounds a la Louisville or Syracuse.

    Back in Willard’s second year with Theo and Pope, he had a great (what I thought was) match up zone to man2man switch up defense that frustrated teams and created lots of turnovers. I don’t think I’ve seen that since the second year. Why do you think that is?

    We’ve got such physical players across the board. I feel like I want more match up zone or man2man from here on out. I assume that is a lot more tiring, but we finally have solid replacements at the 3 and 4 (Singh and Nzei). It seems the bigger issue is that Anderson hasn’t really developed and we don’t have too much guard depth.

  • PadrePirate

    Off topic- is this BE for real?!? We now have 3 top 10 teams, 4 top 20 acc to the polls, and 5 top 50 according to kenpom. Are these teams really worth the numbers? Has anyone been following the other BE teams? Can’t wait to see who’s still standing when these teams start beating up on each other.

    • Matty P

      From what I’ve seen this season Butler and Xavier are for real and should be teams that can get deep into the NCAA tournament. Marquette has 2 legit threats in Ellenson and Fischer which has made them a hard team to beat. Providence has had guys other than Dunn step up this season which was the biggest question going into this season for them. Nova has been a little hard to gauge in my opinion bc they are beating the teams they should be, but haven’t shown they can keep up with top 25 opponents like they have in previous seasons. Outside of those top 5 I’d say we look like a legit #6 team while Georgetown, St Johns, Creighton, and Depaul seem like they can lose to just about anyone. Georgetown will be one of those interesting teams to watch though since they’ve lost to some really bad teams, but kept up with really good teams (i.e. Duke and Maryland). Should be interesting once the big east season starts to see who rises to the top and falls to the bottom.

      • PadrePirate

        Thanks. The top tier seems tough as nails, but even the bottom half teams have their moments.

        For example, Depaul just pounded to the same #20 GW team that beat us. Pretty impressive.

        I think we’re in for a challenging BE opener with Marquette. I don’t know if last year’s humiliating season finale is an additonal motivation for our sophs, but they should be pumped up regardless. Looking forward to a BE rundown on this site soon.

  • Fishjam

    Another great under-rated DG moment that helped set the tone was when he dove on the court head first after a loose ball near mid court. He wasn’t able to save it from going out but it drew a huge ovation from the crowd and I think it sent a message to his teammates of the effort that would be required if they wanted that game.

  • VinBick

    Jumping to tonight’s game. There will be a dozen special guests of Seton Hall at the Rock for the game who are recovering Vets from the VA Hospital in East Orange. A huge THANK YOU to the Athletic Department for hosting these brave folks who have served our country well!