It didn’t look good at the half. But if you asked Kevin Willard, Seton Hall had DePaul right where they wanted them.
Trailing 37-31 with Quincy McKnight scoreless, the team was a questionable 3-of-11 from three to go along with 11 turnovers, some ugly.
And all importantly, Myles Powell wasn’t anything special.
That all changed over the first five DePaul possessions of the second half: two stops, one of four Romaro Gill blocks followed by a shot clock violation, and capped off by Myles Cale drawing an offensive foul on Charlie Moore (he had eight turnovers).
The tone was set. The team and Powell followed suit to ultimately outscore DePaul 49-31 over the final 22 minutes of play and 74-66 in a hard-fought win in Seton Hall’s Big East opener.
Now averaging 32 ppg in games in which he is doubtful, Powell scored the team’s first five of the second half and then scored ten of the team’s final 14 over 4:58; DePaul only tallied ten of the final 10:08 of the game. In other words, Powell outscored DePaul 10-3 over the final 4:58.
Intuition says that Myles Powell would have had stamina issues tonight, but he only gained steam. A series of blows during the game including this one midway through the first half only gave Powell strength, as if a video game character but in a hack and slash, not 2K. Powell scored 18 of his 27 in the second half, added five steals and five rebounds, and outscored DePaul over the last quarter of the game.
It was initially surprising that Jared Rhoden and not Myles Cale was dropped for Powell, but Cale stepped up. It was more impressive that Cale (16p, 6r, got it going on both sides of the ball after a slow start; Cale forcing an offensive turnover on a drive early in the second half was one of many reasons he was a major positive tonight.
Romaro Gill came on strong. Look below to see what Willard told him at the half, but Gill stepped up defensively alongside Cale to start the second period and had several big blocks and a massive, off-balance tip-dunk to cap it all off.
This was a tremendous win, and a massive 20+ minutes. DePaul was favored in this one before it was announced Powell would play, but the Blue Demons sat 28th in today’s AP poll and are far from the perennial basement feeder of years past. Willard was left calling this “as good of a win as we’ve had in awhile” and the way the team just flipped the switch coming out of the half is something we’ve seen a lot of. They can play with anyone if they string 30+ minutes of it together.
Tyrese Samuel (7p, 6r) was solid in his first start. The freshman made some mistakes early, but notably sank a poised long two from the wing after shot-faking his defender and smoothly taking one dribble in the middle of high-pace game. Jared Rhoden also added ten off the bench including consecutive threes to pace the team early in the first half when they were struggling.
Kevin Willard Quotes
(From AM970 interview with Gary Cohen and Dave Popkin)
Opening statement about Myles Powell: “He’s one of the toughest son of a guns that I’ve ever, ever seen. He’s had two practices, two individuals and he even got bopped on the head a little bit in the first half and I think it made him mad a little bit. I think we did a good job of not running everything for him and I think it really helped him [rest].”
About the team’s defense stepping up: “I think defensively what this team did too was really, really good. We finally started buckling down on defense and making them take tough shots. I yelled at Ro, every time you have a big game, you don’t follow it up, you must be on Twitter watching your blocks. But you have to do it every day. I was mad at him, he was -8 in the first half and he came out in the second half and changed the game. Three of the blocks were big ones that changed momentum and got us on the break and gave us the boost we needed. … All around, to come on the road against a team that’s really good, that’s as good of a win as we’ve had in awhile.”
On halftime adjustments: “To be honest with you, I went in there and they were all a little down I said ‘Guys, I’m kind of excited. We’re only down six and we played one of the worst halves of basketball in awhile. … To be only down six on the road and not playing well, we should be down 12 or 13. … We’re right where we want to be on the road. … Get a couple stops, get on offense and play.’ … We cut the lead to one and that gave us some nice confidence and we got in a groove. I felt that was the biggest difference.”
On Myles Cale stepping up and what he told him after the last game: “I had a big conversation with Myles after the PVAMU game. I said ‘You haven’t seen one go in, in awhile. But that’s not why you’re out there. You’re going to make shots, I’m not worried about that. You have no pressure to make a shot. You don’t have to worry if you miss a shot, you’re not coming out. That’s not why you’re ever coming out. You’re so good at so many other factors, and you’re so good at defending, but if you miss your first two shots, and you go in the tank.
‘You have to understand, don’t worry about missing shots. Miss all you want. Just keep doing what you’re doing on the other end because you’re an elite player when you’re focused in and playing but once you start worrying about missed shots, you become terrible. Everyone sees it, your body language goes down- just don’t worry about making a shot. You’re going to start making them. You’re in a slump, unfortunately that happens sometimes. I’m not telling you not to shoot it, if you’re open keep shooting it.’ And I think he had the best two days of practice of anyone when we came back.”
While talking about McKnight’s off-game: “He landed on his wrist early in the game and his right wrist is a little swollen so he was a little gun-shy when he shouldn’t be. The more he gets comfortable with flip-flopping going back-and-forth [between PG, SG], it will give us another dynamic as a scorer, as a guard, and as a play-maker.”
On Powell playing 34 minutes, being concerned about him playing so hard: “Nothing with the head was I worried about. Tony Testa [team trainer] has done such a great job with the testing and being so far advanced — he’s one of the smartest guys out there when it comes to concussion protocol and concussion testing and what he do for our kids. I was just worried about in general, is he going to pull something. I trust him, when he tells me he’s good, when he tells me he’s not, I take him out. And you get seven timeouts in the second half so you get 21 minutes of stoppage time in the second half. … He kept saying ‘I’m gassed but I’m alright.’ And once we got to the under-eight I said ‘Do you need a quick break?’ and he said ‘No, I’m not coming out.’ I said ‘OK, I’m not going to take you out’, I knew he would have yelled at me anyway. … Some GM is going to make himself look like a brilliant man for drafting that kid. I watch all of college basketball and I see all of these great players and there’s a lot of good ones but I’ll take that dude over anybody, everyday of the week.”