Sunday, February 7, 2016

Seton Hall 69, Georgetown 61: JP's 5 Thoughts

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

In a classic, old-fashioned Big East game, and with Seton Hall donning their phenomenal throwback jerseys on "80's night," the Pirates certainly looked stout, turning in a great defensive performance to shut down the Georgetown Hoyas 69-61 in front of a raucous crowd in Newark late Saturday night. It is the fourth win in a row for Seton Hall, who now sits at 17-6 and 7-4 in the Big East, surpassing Georgetown and Providence for third place in the conference standings.

Here are the Thoughts:

1. Touched By An Angel

The key for Seton Hall yet again was the play of Angel Delgado inside. The sophomore had a slow start to the season, but in conference play has completely taken over at times with his motor, length and skill down low. He tied his career-high with 19 points for the second straight game, adding 13 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double. Seton Hall is 4-0 in those games, and Delgado is beating the competition over their heads to the tune of 16.5 points and 13.8 rebounds on SEVENTY percent shooting. With the perimeter shooting for this team sometimes iffy (and it certainly was tonight), Delgado playing well is a true litmus test for whether the Hall succeeds. Case in point- Seton Hall is 12-0 when Angel has a double-double this year.

2. Dominance On D

You've heard of the saying that "Offense wins games, defense wins championships?" Well, for the Pirates, defense just so happens to win games, too. The Hall is playing very, very strong defensively, having not allowed 70 points in any game of their current win streak. They are 14-0 when holding their opposition under that threshold this year and that is not an accident for one of the top defensive teams and best rebounding team in the conference. The Pirates really needed their D tonight, and despite off nights from Isaiah Whitehead, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez, they were able to get the win by out-slogging Georgetown in the trenches. When the Hall needed stops, they got stops, led by....

3. Derrick Gordon

The graduate transfer played out-of-his-mind well tonight, defending ferociously while also chipping in 12 points, four boards, three assists and three steals. He took on one of the Big East's toughest covers in D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and completely locked him down. Smith-Rivera still scored 10 points, but was never really comfortable as Gordon took away most of his space all night long. He stepped in front of guys and took three or four charges tonight. He rebounded on the offensive glass against a big Hoya front line. Heck, if he made a few layups that he couldn't get to drop, he'd be just as big of a story as Delgado was. 

To me, he's the best perimeter defender the Pirates have had since Paul Gause. He and Ismael Sanogo (who was also strong tonight as usual with seven points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals) form the best inside-outside defensive tandem since I can't remember when at the Hall, and in a game where defense was so prominently featured, they collectively turned in a tremendous performance.

4. The Mark Of A Winning Team... that sometimes, you can win ugly. With the shooting percentages in the thirties all night long from tipoff to buzzer, combining a desperate Georgetown team and a Seton Hall team on a roll, the Pirates played probably their worst game of the four in a row that they won. But they amassed 18 second-chance points off their hustle and out-classed the bigger Georgetown team in the paint 34-22. In the words of Seton Hall alum and WFAN anchor Joey Wahler on Twitter, "That's a grown-@$$ man win." It sure was, and this Pirates team is built to win ugly when needed. They'd love to win pretty, with tons of made shots, but the Big East isn't built to allow that very often.

5. The Butler Issue

Speaking of winning ugly, the Butler Bulldogs are built on that concept. They have dominated the Pirates since the Big East reformed itself, and when Chris Holtmann's squad comes to Newark, Seton Hall will get a tough, tough test. The Hall in the past has just not matched up well with Butler, but with a four-game conference win streak under their belt (the longest since 2011-12), they get that test at a pretty good time. We said that the stretch of five games (four at home) beginning with St. John's last week was a crucial one. Well, the Pirates have won the first four games. 

Three wins away from 10 conference wins and 20 overall wins, two big milestones for any NCAA team, you can forgive Pirate fans for beginning to dream a little of a season that doesn't end at Madison Square Garden or the NIT. There is still a lot of hoops left to be played, but there just seems to be something different about this year's team. We'll be watching with baited breath the rest of the way to see if this group can realize their goals. Not bad for a team picked seventh in the preseason poll.

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