Sunday, December 13, 2015

JP's 5 Thoughts On Seton Hall vs. Saint Peter's

Isaiah Whitehead may not have dominated box score with his 12 points, but played a more complete game as Seton Hall defeated Saint Peter's. (Photo courtesy of the Asbury Park Press)

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

1. Hot Stuff

Seton Hall never trailed in their 72-46 beatdown of in-state rival Saint Peter's on Sunday afternoon in Newark, and they once again started red-hot from the field. The Pirates hit seven of their first eight shots (including all four of their three-pointers), building a 19-4 lead in the first three minutes and change to bury the Peacocks before they had a chance. 

This is no small feat- if there's one thing John Dunne's team brings, especially against Seton Hall recently, it's patience and defense. Last year, the game wasn't decided until the latter stages and the Peacocks actually beat the Pirates two seasons ago. It's encouraging to see a complete effort on both ends of the floor from the Hall, including...

2. Getting Defensive

One major, major key for Kevin Willard and the Pirates was stopping Antwon Portley, the Peacocks' leading scorer. The freshman guard never got off the ground, netting just two points on 1-8 shooting (and those were on a layup with the game already in hand). Isaiah Whitehead and Derrick Gordon totally smothered him and Saint Peter's offense went south with their star. No Peacocks scored in double figures in the game. Speaking of Mr. Whitehead...

3. Whitehead's World

After struggling overall against Troy, scoring 20 points but needing 20 shots to do so, the Pirates' star guard played a rather cerebral game against Saint Peter's. He did a little bit of everything, ending up with 12 points on 5-12 shooting and adding three rebounds, assists, steals and blocks while taking the assignment of shutting down Portley. He appeared to be very much under control, forcing things much less than he did on Thursday. 

Up next for Whitehead is a huge test of his mettle against the likes of Fred VanVleet and/or Ron Baker as the Pirates host Wichita State on true national television (FOX) this Saturday. Seton Hall will definitely need Whitehead to be Whitehead to hang with the Shockers.

4. Shots, Shots, ShotsShotsShots Shots

Or, more accurately, MADE shots. When asked about the current Pirates, Saint Peter's head coach John Dunne (a former Hall assistant under Louis Orr) said that if they shoot like they did today (50% from the floor, 10-19 on threes), they will win a lot of games in the Big East. He's right- the Pirates strength is taking folks off the dribble, particularly with Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington. 

But the Pirates' ability to make perimeter shots is crucial, as it opens up more opportunities to play to their strengths. Seton Hall's offense is most-decidedly driven by their guards as only Angel Delgado has the ability to really score inside. The Pirates make up for this with hustle from their bigs, getting on the offensive glass for putbacks with Mike Nzei and Ish Sanogo, but making shots from the outside really opens up the offense, as it did Sunday. Once that happened, there was nothing Saint Peter's could do as they were already ceding a skill advantage to the Hall.

5. Under Pressure?

Now 8-2 on the year, that test against Wichita State is up next, a noontime tip on FOX from Newark. Everyone and their grandmother has had this game circled for a long, long time, and the Shockers feature two of the nation's best backcourt players in the aforementioned VanVleet and Baker, plus a stout defense that places emphasis on ball pressure. Seton Hall will need their very best efforts on both ends of the floor on Saturday and ball security (an area where the still-youthful Pirates have struggled at times) will be paramount. It will be the most highly-pressured game the team will have played this season by far.

With the Big East featuring a few teams this year that are near or on the Shockers' level (Villanova, Xavier and Providence come to mind), it could provide a window into what awaits the Pirates as conference play draws near.

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