Seton Hall uses big second half to blast Marquette 83-63 in Big East opener

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It looked like Seton Hall (11-2) was in for trouble after Marquette (10-3) clawed back to take the lead at the half after trailing by 11 early, but the Pirates clamped down on defense and were by far the better team after the break en route to an impressive 83-63 win in Milwaukee.

Desi Rodriguez scored a career-high 19 points while Angel Delgado (11 pts, 11 rebs) posted his sixth double-double in a row in a truly all-around game for the Pirates. Isaiah Whitehead scored 16 to go along with 7 assists while Khadeen Carrington had 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Last but not least, Ish Sanogo (10 pts, 8 rebs) displayed textbook defense and held Henry Ellenson to 13 points (3-14) and 14 rebounds.

Seton Hall played with a swagger over the opening eight minutes during which they led by as many as 11 at 17-6 before building a 22-12 lead at the under-12.

When the Pirates get up and down the floor, that’s usually when their attack ticks. Kevin Willard’s team was able to do just that early on, with Marquette coach Steve Wojociechowski demanding his team to make the Hall play half court offense during a first half media break.

Marquette fed the post several possessions in a row early in the game, a pattern which turned out to be an integral scoring source for the hosts. The Golden Eagles scored 22 of their first 24 points in the paint and 32 of 40 in the first half.

The turning point of the first period came when Isaiah Whitehead picked up his second foul just prior to the under-12. While Seton Hall’s offense did fair with Whitehead on the bench, it was the slight disrupting of their flow coupled with Marquette’s exploitation of the post that temporarily flipped the script.

The hosts used a 13-4 run to get right back into the game before taking their first lead of the night at 39-38 on a Wally Ellenson (3 pts) put-back with 76 seconds left before break.

With their interior defense needing to be addressed at the half, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo were able to seal the leaks inside while Derrick Gordon (7 pts, 6 rebs) made all of the hustle plays to turn game in the Pirates’ favor. Marquette was just 4 of their first 17 shots from the field in the second half.

“I was happy with the position we were in at half time,” Willard told Gary Cohen and Dave Popkin on 570 AM post-game. “I just said ‘Guys, make them work … don’t give any of the guards easy stuff, just make them work.’”

Even though Marquette scored a ton of points in the paint over the first 20 minutes, it turned out to be a somewhat deceiving stat: bigs Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer were held to 9-of-25 from the field on the night.

“I like that match-up for us,” said Willard of Sanogo on Ellenson. “I thought he made it difficult for Ellenson to get clean looks, especially early in the game … Ish had an unbelievable second half.”

Despite 20 turnovers, quite a few of which were unforced, Seton Hall pushed the momentum in their favor for good following one of several careless mistakes. Following a turnover, Isaiah Whitehead took a strong charge just outside of the protective arc to head into the under-12 with the ball up seven at 55-48.

“He dominates a game – and he really does – if you watch what he does out there,” Willard gushed about his point guard. “He’s good, he’s really good. I know his shooting numbers [aren’t great], he also has the ball in his hands a lot so he takes a lot of tired shots, which he has to work on. I think we’re starting to watch the evolution of a kid that can be really, really special.”

Desi Rodriguez would pick up his fourth foul shortly after Whitehead’s drawn charge, but Seton Hall didn’t miss a beat.

Instead of being on the verge of surrendering another lead, the Pirates went on an 18-4 run to lead 73-54 coming out of the under-four, effectively icing the game.

In addition to his defense, Derrick Gordon nailed a triple to put Seton Hall up 11 with just under eight to play when Marquette was still very much in reach.

A bunch of people on Twitter have already declared Ish Sanogo as their Most Valuable Pirate, but I honestly can’t choose just one player. Playing a “complete game” is very cliche, but every guy did their part. Carrington had 10 rebounds, Delgado posted another double-double, Sanogo and Gordon played stout defense, and Whitehead was commanding as a floor general.

Now 11-2 (1-0) and winners of six-straight games, Seton Hall hosts DePaul at 11am on Saturday with revenge on their minds after getting swept by the Blue Demons last season.

  • PadrePirate

    Pretty solid W. Great D. A few too many sloppy TO’s, but solid effort.

    Don’t quite get those first half rapid-fire subbing moves by KW. Seems to really disrupt game flow. Can anyone explain to me the rational.

    Good to see us dominate the boards and keep a high scoring team off-balance most of the night.

    Looking forward to seeing home opener at the Rock. Remember DePaul routed a good GW team, who beat us. So, can’t overlook them as a cupcake.

  • LBP

    Great Win-Gotta say Coach Willard has picked up his Game the last 3 outings-now if Hall can eliminate TOs— Sanogo and Gordon have upped the D intensity of this Team

  • Willard on what type of message this sends: “I think winning of the road sends a message. I like the fact that we never really got rattled … They’re a funny group now, I don’t want to say there’s no panic, they kind of look around and are like ‘Alright, everybody chill out. Let’s play defense.’

    It’s a nice feeling. We talk about adjustments not ‘Everybody relax’. We’re evolving, we’re growing up.

    They’re growing. We’re not there yet. Offensively, we’re turning the ball over too much. We can’t do that as we go forward … We have a long way to go, but it’s a good first step for this team.”

    • PadrePirate

      Hey, at least he’s able to identify one of our main woes… According to some Republicans, naming the enemy is the first step to victory!

    • WilponsStink

      The team this year never quits, no question about it. BE teams better not put it in cruise control against the Pirates because they will keep coming at you.

  • Hallbuster

    Way to make me eat crow coach Willard. I actually see some intelligent play calling and X”s and Os that didn’t exist last year nor even early on this season. You are to be commended for these last couple games. Just hope we don’t fall apart again and you keep the locker room controlled and this team playing like the thoroughbred athletes they are. I still question some of those subs early on in the game when we were up by 11. Seemed like we should have went for jugular then but I atta backed off only to have to come on strong in the 2nd half. I’m pleasantly surprised and I want to believe but last season still is fresh in my memory. Keep it up and make me a believer. This team seems hungry and so do u.

    • jfp1992

      Agree about Willard. I haven’t been impressed, but the last three games have given me some hope.

  • Willard on Gordon: “Six rebounds, I think he had nine deflections. He’s such a valuable player for us because he does so many little things that people don’t pick up on. He’s going to continue to get better and better and better, more comfortable. I have so much confidence in him, anytime I see him on the floor I know he’s going to do the right thing, he’s going to play hard. It’s so nice to have a kid out there and know he’s going to do the right thing.”

    • Hallbuster

      Gordon huge part of teams success

    • WilponsStink

      With the issues in the clubhouse last year, I was worried that the team was going to take issue with Gordon. But not so; in fact, he’s emerging as a leader of the team that they rally around.

      After last year I’m trying not to get lured in too fast, but I’m really starting to like this team.

    • Here’s my Vine of him flying into the 8th row: https://vine.co/v/iqFjVg51i1A

    • Jersey Jerry

      Ya gotta LOVE a kid that tries to save a ball, goes
      over the scorers desk and up into the stands to say ‘Hi’ to someone in the 9th
      row … sure am happy to have DG w/us as we continue to grow into a March Team!

    • Fishjam

      I knew Gordon was a great defensive player but he is even better than I could have imagined. The experience and saavy he has gained by playing against big-time competion since his early days at St. Patrick’s serve him well now. In addition to all of the stops, the steals and the deflections, he must draw 4-5 offensive fouls every game. He moves his feet very well to get into position and knows how to draw the calls out of officials without flopping/overselling. I don’t know if there is a stat for those plays but it’s basically the same as a steal/forced turnover plus the benefit of drawing a PF on the opposition

      • Matty P

        It seems like Willard wasn’t joking when he said that Gordon would make up for a portion of the lost points from Gibbs leaving on the defensive end. He’s definitely brought something this team didn’t have last year on the defensive end.

        • Fishjam

          Sterling’s outside shooting and ball-handling would be a huge lift to this team but I’ll go out on a limb a little and say DG is more valuable TO THIS GROUP than Gibbs would have been.

          I don’t want to disparage Gibbs but he’s not the leader that DG is. When things started to go wrong last year, Gibbs didn’t make them better or bring the team together. As a Senior and a local kid who has been around Gibbs could have been a big brother to the Freshmen. DG is a leader and his defensive efforts have sent a clear message to everyone on this team of what’s expected. It has become contagious. Everyone on this team gives great defensive effort now and are playing more cohesive as a unit. IMO, that defense and leadership more than makes up for the extra points Sterling would have supplied.

  • Hallbuster

    Gordon has been huge factor to their wins. He brings hustle and heart and has been clutch.

  • Jersey Jerry

    Sure liked what Steve said at halftime ~ ‘Best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores!’ This is a group of kids that can take ‘da HALL back to the days of ’89! LOVE these kids and how KW has molded them into a true TEAM!!!

  • Matty P

    This team is going to be incredible difficult to beat if they can continue to play defense like the did in the second half tonight. The one thing that should always travel well is defense which getting wins on the road will be key if this team wants to make the tournament. Between Gordon and Sanogo we have 2 players who can match up with either the guards or forwards and create some trouble. Hope that Sanogo’s ankle is okay after landing on Ellenson’s foot.

  • Seton Hall defense now ranked 26th in efficiency in KenPom

  • WilponsStink

    Defensively, they’re bigger and more athletic down low. Offensively, the guards are getting consistent penetration and other guys are coming to the ball. Last year there was a lot of perimeter passing and isolations. This year the guards are taking steps from the perimeter to the basket and the rest of the team is getting involved. I doubted Willard, but so far he’s got these guys going in the right direction. Keep it going Pirates.

  • Andrew Herbst

    I loved the intensity we showed on the defensive end, especially in the 2nd 1/2. Delgado and Sanago did an awesome job of shutting down Fisher and Ellison in the paint. We forced to them to take a lot of tough shots. I think that this team is really starting to come together. We are looking like a much more cohesive unit. Gordon was a great pickup. He has been a real leader and a really solid defender and rebounder. Looking forward to DePaul game. Won’t be easy, especially with an 11 am start. GO PIRATES.

  • hallstorm

    I’m assuming the Ish injury isn’t that serious. It looked like he bumped knees with Ellenson after Ellenson kicked out his legs on an attempted 3 (I was still trying to see where the foul was) and he came immediately out after that and nothing more has been mentioned.

    Chris-do you have any more on this?

  • Matty P

    Post game interview with Willard and Whitehead. https://twitter.com/SetonHallMBB/status/682400117240889344

  • hallstorm

    Overall, probably the best defensive effort I’ve seen. Also very close to the games last year against Villanova and St. John’s with regard to interior passing. That makes me extremely happy to see.

  • SHULaw05

    Have to love the solid defense from The Hall! The offense is flowing so much better too. However, the defensive intensity is just incredible to watch! All of our players made major contributions tonight. Hope to hear that Sanogo is okay. The solid effort put forth by our players to contain Marquette’s two big men was outstanding! Great job and a tremendous WIN on the road for our Pirates! GO HALL!

  • Matty P

    Seeing Delgado go 5-6 from the free throw line was awesome. It looks like he’s spent some extra time in the gym to work on those foul shots. He’s got to keep working on it since he’s most likely going to consistently get fouled after pulling in those offense rebounds.

    • ThePirateFan

      Absolutely!!! Last year he could grab a defensive rebound, get fouled immediately, then miss the front end or (at best) go 1-2.

  • Fishjam

    The defense has really been huge this season and the players have bought in. Last year and early this season, they had tendencies to go on long scoring droughts which led to them trying to force things. Now, when the team needs to get going offensively they turn up the intensity on defense because they are confident that will lead to easy buckets offensively.

  • PirateLacrosse14

    More than ever last night, I saw the Rick Pitino influence on Willard really come out of the team. They played a smart, fast paced, high intensity, athletic game that Marquette couldn’t compete with. Marquette was unsuccessful in keeping SHU in the half court, and it ended up being a bit of track meet, which, with the athleticism of this team, is exactly what Willard wanted.
    I really think the running exhausted Marquette, especially their two top big men, making them non-factors with about 10-12 minutes left to play. Get Veer more consistent, and this can be a very difficult team to play.

  • Matt

    Where is iratepirate? I always look forward to reading his comment

    • Hard to be irate after last night

      • iratepirate

        I posted belatedly. I’m a happy man today. We will see what the next two games bring.

  • ThePirateFan

    Loving the defensive effort. Loving that the IDENTITY of this team is on the defensive end of the floor.

    This team had 20 turnovers and still won by 20.

    Clean it up on the offensive end and the ceiling for this team is far higher than I would have predicted. But a ceiling is just that, the guys have to actually get it together and achieve it.

  • SHULaw05

    Can’t sleep on the DePaul game. Have to focus 100% on every single game. Great win last night! Happy New Year in advance to all my fellow Pirate fans and alumni! Go Hall!

  • LBP

    Nova looked mean today-

  • iratepirate

    I will admit, “It’s hard to be irate after last night”. Tons of things to be happy about. My first thought is how this is not what it seemed like a typical “Willard team” would be like.

    1. Aggressive big men that THE OTHER team is actually complaining about. Driving points in the paint.

    2. Little reliance on the 3-ball

    I will say that the defense is finally clicking over the last few games. We won the rebounding war. I will continue to say it for the rest of the season. Desi Rodriguez is my spirit animal. Fearless and talented. Savage at the 3, which is his natural position. Have to keep him on the floor and teach him to foul less.

    That’s the good news, AND IT IS GOOD.

    ——-
    However, there is a lot more to work on.

    1. Marquette isn’t that good, and we still have not faced talent like Butler, Xavier, or Villanova. Marquette has feasted on cupcakes in the non-conference, just as we did. We are going to see what this team is made of against Villanova in the coming weeks.

    2. Turnovers. It is easy to overlook this, but it matters. You can’t commit 20 turnovers a game. You can’t. Good competition is going to slow us down (everyone knows we want a track meet). They are going to force us to play our half court offense which is ugly at times.

    3. We are still pretty weak at the point. There were many blind drives into traffic last night. I don’t want to put it on IW, but it’s either the strategy or the play running that is to blame. We need more outlet passing or in-and-outs from the PG (whether it is IW, DG or KC).

    Overall, this was a fantastic game, and there is no replacement for “heart” in sports. It will carry you most of the way all by itself.

  • Fishjam

    Wonder what it is about this team and their 2nd half defense? It almost seems like it takes the 1st half for them to measure their opponent and see what they like to do, then they make some adjustments at Halftime and lock down for rest of game.

    Gordon has been the defensive leader and Whitehead has also been improved on defense. But Ish has been a monster in the 2nd half. The job he did against 2 totally different potential NBA 1st rounders over the last 3 games cannot be understated. He locked up a guard in Baker in the 2nd half vs Wichita and pestered a PF in Ellenson vs Marquette holding him to 3 out of 14 shooting. His ability to guard the best player, regardless of position is impressive.

    The 1 player I think has a lot of room for improvement defensively is Desi. With his athleticism and size I think he could do more. He shows flashes with steals and blocks at times but he seems to drift a little mentally on defense being out of position or not moving his feet. He also picks up lazy fouls. His offense has taken a quantum leap and if he tightens up his D a bit he will be a force. If it weren’t for the foul trouble he would have had 25+ points easy vs Marquette.