Seton Hall keys on second half defense in 69-62 win over Georgia

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NEWARK – A fiery halftime speech from Kevin Willard motivated Seton Hall (5-1) to lock down on defense in the second half which would prove to be the difference in a must-have 69-62 win over Georgia (3-2) on Saturday night at Prudential Center.

Knotted up at 30 with the visiting Bulldogs at the half, one may have thought that Seton Hall’s eight-minute first half field goal drought could have been a key talking point for head coach Kevin Willard at the break. Instead, it was Georgia’s 56-percent first half shooting percentage that fired up the skipper.

“I just didn’t like the way we were reacting to the way they were scoring,” said Willard of his locker room talk. “I didn’t like our body language, our facial expressions when someone scored on us, it was too negative and it was hurting us on the offensive end. We just had a very nice polite conversation about that … I thought they responded good. They came out with much better defensive energy.”

“That’s probably the maddest I’ve ever saw him, ever,” admitted Isaiah Whitehead, who scored a game-high 22 points for Seton Hall.  “He expects so much out of us and if we’re not doing what we know we can it just makes him furious.”

“Coach got on us, he told us we were playing like a bunch of babies, freshmen,” concurred Khadeen Carrington after a 20-point, 6-rebound effort.

After the Bulldogs shot 14-of-25 in the first 20 minutes, Seton Hall clamped down and allowed Georgia to go just 8-of-22 (36%) from the floor following Willard’s well-timed tirade.

Ismael Sanogo (0 pts, 8 rebounds) was held scoreless but did his job defensively and on the boards, Angel Delgado (5 pts, 11 rebs, 3 blks) came up clutch with offensive boards and blocks down the stretch and Isaiah Whitehead (22 pts) also made his mark behind the ball by single-handedly forcing several turnovers in the closing minutes.

In addition to Delgado’s two key late blocks, Whitehead played all out on a defensive possession to force a shot clock violation that was followed up by a banked-in Derrick Gordon (8 pts, 3 rebs) triple to give Seton Hall a 7-0 second half run.

The floor general wasn’t done and put together an even better sequence later on when he ripped the ball out of J.J. Frazier’s hands along the baseline and then drilled a long-range three to put Seton Hall up 67-59 and seal the game with 30 seconds left.

“The key to victory was when we started struggling offensively, we got stops,” said Willard.  “I was really happy with the way they responded defensively when we weren’t playing well offensively. That’s a big difference from what happened last year.”

“It was a big point at halftime,” said Whitehead. “Just to see him fired up and just to see how much he thinks we can accomplish, it just got our guys fired up and want to play defense.”

Not all of Seton Hall’s second half defensive effort was conventional: 10 of the Pirates’ 13 offensive rebounds came after the half including seven from Sanogo and Delgado that provided crucial extra possessions to disrupt Georgia’s offensive flow.

“I got on him at halftime too,” said Carrington of Delgado’s second half epiphany. “I told him to stop crying, you’ve got to pick it up. He’s like my brother and he came through for me.”

The win gives Seton Hall their first three-game winning streak since beating Maine, Villanova and St. John’s to become ranked last January and is in response to a 65-47 drubbing in Athens last season.

“This is a big win for us,” said Carrington. “We’ve been saying all week that they kind of kicked our butts last year. It was a payback game.”

Seton Hall will look to win a fourth-straight game when they travel to D.C. to take on a top-30 George Washington squad on Wednesday night.

  • Fishjam

    Good win….I was happy to hear that Willard ripped them at halftime and also how well they responded to it. Their defensive effort in the 2nd half was excellent!

    Really have to hand it to IW & Dino as they have outplayed 2 very good, very veteran backcourts in the last 2 games. Much was made of Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann but after Gaines hit a couple of open shots to start the game, it seemed to light a fire under IW & Dino. They each played extremley aggressive on both ends of the court and outscored their counterparts 42 to 18. KW said his guards had to rebound better so Carrington tripled his average with 6 rebounds and Zeke was sensational on defense. He drew several offensive fouls, created turnovers and was disruptive all day. Offensively, they constantly slashed and attacked the hoop. There is still too much dribbling and one on one moves but I liked how they aggressively took it to the rim once they saw Georgia was playing tight man defense and the refs were calling a lot of fouls.

  • fouline

    Yes is was a good win. And yes it was strange… how they won. It’s a loosey-goosey system of run…shoot(circus shots included) and at times play defense(when they remember). Still like what DRod, KCar and Iwhi are doing most of the time. What it’s going to look like when we play better teams is another story. But for now… Next!

  • Jersey Jerry

    Nice “W”; however, next game will NOT be EZ … GW plays in the Charles E. Smith Center which is a 5,000-seat ‘band-box’ w/a GR8 student section behind the visitors bench. Even though GW lost last night to the Cincinnati Bearcats @ ‘da Barclay Center Classic (final score was 61-56) they are a VERY good team @ 6-1. The Colonials went 11 of 22 from 3-point range and we just can’t let them shoot 50% against us. This should be a fun game to watch and I’m looking forward to it.

    Sure hope we have a LOT of support from the DC Alumni Club at the game and just sorry I
    will NOT be in attendance as I’ll be up in DC the following Wed.

  • The Other Matt

    Good win and impressive job to bounce back in the second half in response to Willard challenging them at halftime, and rightfully so. I know that amongst Seton Hall basketball loyalists much has been made about who will be the second primary ball handler behind IW, developing a second consistent scoring option behind IW, where the perimeter shooting will come from, and the rotation of the forwards, etc. Nevertheless, one thing that shouldn’t be in question with this team is it’s ability to play defense. This roster is hands down Willard’s most athletic bunch from top to bottom, since coming here. When you look at each player individually, from the key players on down to the guys who may play sparingly, each possess the ability to help form this team into a solid defensively efficient team. With IW’s length and ability to get after it on the defensive side of the ball at the PG spot, he could very well wreak havoc on other teams opposing guards night in and night out, if he wanted to. Understanding that he shoulders a large responsibility in being the team’s primary ball handler/playmaker and scorer, he won’t be able to possibly be the “in your jersey” type of defender every possession, though, I think we’ve seen here in a little over a year’s time that he is capable of being a plus defender, and lockdown defender when asked and motivated to, as we saw towards the end of the UGA game. In KC and DG you have two guys who also are more than capable of being a headache as on ball defenders, but also have shown being able to anticipate and play the passing lanes, both in man-to-man and zone defense, which often allows them to create turnovers and get out in transition where both are their best.

    With guys like Ish, Desi, and Nzei, they all are athletic enough where they can not only rotate well defensively and contest shots on the perimeter when called upon, but get back into the paint and rebound as well. Which is an added plus defensively, when you have multiple guys who are that versatile. That is part of the reason why the Heat’s defense was able to be so effective during the time they had LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, despite their inability to rebound the ball at times. But I digress.

    Then in Delgado you have not only one of the best returning rebounders in the country, but also a guy who has proven that, especially moving so well laterally within the paint in the middle of the zone, he can not only rebound missed shots, but cause some as well, through contesting, altering, and, as we saw against UGA, blocking shots. Add in guys like Anthony (who we saw show himself to be a solid post defender in spurts last season) and Carter, who though have played sparingly early on, are big, but also athletic and agile enough to not only “be good for a few fouls” but to have an impact defensively by rebounding, contesting/blocking shots, and being able to do so with a high level of energy in the amount of minutes that they’re called onto play.

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