Desi Rodriguez finishes off one of his several dunks in Seton Hall's 78-69 win over Troy at Prudential Center. (Photo courtesy of Seton Hall University Athletics)
By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)
Seton Hall came off of their big blowout against in-state rival Rutgers by hosting Sun Belt foe Troy at Prudential Center in Newark on Thursday night. Despite a slow first half in which the Pirates went into a rut after opening the game on an 11-2 spurt, a late first-half surge gave them the lead going into intermission and a strong second stanza lifted them to a 78-69 win to improve to 7-2 on the season.
Here are four observations from the contest:
1. Desi Rodriguez is poised to take off
One of the adjustments Kevin Willard’s team made this past offseason is moving Rodriguez from the post (where he saw most of his time as a reserve power forward, albeit an undersized one last year) to the wing, his more natural position given his 6’6” frame. Well, the results have been very encouraging. Rodriguez is probably the best athlete the Pirates have, and is always good for a couple huge dunks a night. Thursday was no exception, as the highlight of the game was his left-handed power slam off an inbounds lob from Khadeen Carrington that brought the Rock to its feet. He finished with an efficient 18 points and 11 boards on 7-12 from the floor and really gave Seton Hall a lift on a night where his longtime teammate Isaiah Whitehead struggled to find his range.
In a larger sense, though, the sophomore from the Bronx just looks more comfortable in his current role on the floor and the stats have increased as a result. Willard also mentioned that because of his new role, he’s able to leak out on fast breaks and go against shorter opposing guards. That should only enhance his game heading towards Big East play.
2. Angel Delgado – Back to Basics
Coming off a terrific performance against Rutgers that earned him the Joe Calabrese MVP award, given annually to the best player in the Garden State Showdown, Delgado contributed a quiet double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds against the Trojans. We asked Kevin Willard what the difference has been for the sophomore from the Dominican Republic and he said that the 6’9” Delgado just got back to “doing what he does best…rebound.” If not for the 2-6 showing from the free throw line, Delgado’s line may have been more impressive.
The thing is, though, that Willard has a point- Delgado’s best work has come when his high motor and rebounding prowess carries the load, and that is less noticeable to the casual fan than, say, what Isaiah Whitehead does on a per game basis. Judging by the last two games, perhaps it’s best that he’s simplified his approach.
3. Spurts And Such
With Seton Hall’s youth movement this season, it’s often forgotten that most of the team is still quite young, and as is the case with all young teams, they are prone to stretches of stagnation on both ends of the floor. They had an 11-2 lead early in Thursday’s game only to see Troy mount a 10-0 run and take the lead for the entire middle part of the half. But after refocusing defensively, it was the longer and stronger Pirates who made a run before halftime that carried over into the second half, and Troy never seriously threatened from there on out.
Consistency is the chief goal for this team going forward. The talent is there- it’s just young, and playing consistently at both ends is where the Hall sometimes slips up.
4. Home Cooking
Thursday night’s game kicked off a four-game homestand for Seton Hall. Now 7-2 on the year (ahead of where Willard expected his team to be), they have dates with Saint Peter’s, USF and (the big one) Wichita State in the next couple weeks before Big East play begins. At this point in the season, it’s still tough to tell where this team is headed this season. That Wichita State game on Saturday the 19th at noon on true national television (FOX) looms huge on the horizon as one the Pirates would really like to have, with the other two games representing contests the Pirates should win. If you’re a Hall fan, this is where you’d like to see them make some hay and build momentum into an always-tough Big East slate.