Friday, November 13, 2015

Seton Hall men, women pick up season-opening wins

Kevin Willard addresses the media after Seton Hall defeated Dartmouth 84-67 in season opener. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)

BY RAY FLORIANI

NEWARK, NJ --­ The halftime score read 39­-33 in favor of homestanding Seton Hall. Dartmouth of the Ivy League competed on fairly even terms the first half, staying close enough to put some concern in the hearts of the Prudential Center faithful.

Coaches, and we have reiterated their mantra, tell us the first four minutes of the second half are vital. At the under-16 minute timeout, the Hall owned a 48­42 lead. That is a 9-9 "break-even" for those of you scoring at home as they say. In other words, the ‘first four’ appeared to favor the Big Green, who did not allow the Hall to break things open.

Just before the midway mark of the second half, the Hall converted a few transition opportunities while getting stops on the defensive end. That pushed the margin to double digits and basically put Kevin Willard’s club in command. Seton Hall went on to post an 84-­67 opening night victory.

The numbers: In a 75-possession game, Seton Hall enjoyed a definitive advantage in offensive efficiency. The Hall enjoyed a stellar 114 OE while holding Dartmouth to 89.

What they did well: Shoot and get to the line. Seton Hall shot an excellent eFG percentage of 66 percent. Their FT rate of 92 percent (43 attempts at the line against 47 from the field) was phenomenal. Simply, it was a matter of attacking the basket and making the extra pass, looking for the cutter to the basket, in half court sets.

Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard’s take.....
“I thought Isaiah played terrific. For his first game, he played really well. First game 18, (points) 8, (assists) that’s a pretty good start of his sophomore year.” ­- on Isaiah Whitehead, the Hall’s leading scorer with 18 points.

“Derrick sprained his ankle the last play of practice the other night. What you saw was him playing on one leg. I like the maturity he gives to us.” on Derrick Gordon (14 points, 5 assists)

“We will be a turnover prone team, but tonight we won the battle of the boards.....we wore them down especially on the boards, (45­-27 overall) but we have to do a better job on decisions getting the ball inside. We played a Dartmouth team that won seven in a row last year and defeated Yale. We didn’t expect an easy one in this opener.”

Angel Delgado, the Hall’s inside threat, scored seven points while adding a game-high nine rebounds. Seton Hall had four players in double figures. Dartmouth was paced by Evan Boudreaux with 25 points. The 6­-8 freshman forward took game scoring honors, and was impressive inside and at mid-range as well. Connor Boehm, a 6­-7 senior, added 16 points.

Earlier in the day, actually morning, the Seton Hall women defeated Bryant 93-­57 at Walsh Gymnasium. Tony Bozzella’s Pirates enjoyed an outstanding edge in efficiency, 130­80. The contest had 71 possessions and saw the Seton Hall backcourt excel. Iona transfer Aleesha Powell scored 14 points while handing out five assists and getting four steals. Neptune, New Jersey native Shakena Richardson scored 17 points with four assists. Tabatha Richardson-Smith scored a game-high 25 points for the Hall.

Bryant, of the Northeast Conference, was led by Ivory Bailey with 21 points. Bailey did have seven turnovers as the Bulldogs were forced into a 35 percent turnover rate by the Hall.

Next up for Seton Hall is a big home date with in-­state rival Rutgers. Going into that game, Bozzella can take solace in the fact that the Hall only committed eight turnovers against Bryant, an outstanding 11% rate. On the flip side, the Pirates were beaten in offensive rebounding percentage 57­-37 percent by the NEC visitors. Rebounds will be something Bozzella will undoubtedly address in preparation for Rutgers.

In retrospect, it was a “Hall’ of a day. Two season-opening wins. The men have work to be done. On the half-full side, they withstood a challenge by Dartmouth and managed to keep the early second half lead, not letting it get to one possession, before eventually wearing down the opposition to a double-digit win. The women were impressive, while looking squarely at a very demanding early-season test in two days. Stay tuned.

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