Angel Delgado tied career high for second straight game, scoring 19 points in Seton Hall's 69-61 victory against Georgetown. (Photo courtesy of SHUHoops.com)
NEWARK, NJ -- Saturday evening was billed as "'80s Night" at the Prudential Center.
Fittingly, both teams on the floor played 40 minutes of basketball that could have been taken straight out of a time capsule from the Big East's infancy. And in the end, the team who donned the jerseys they wore on the way to a magical run that stopped just seconds short of a national championship came away one step closer to bringing a new set of March aspirations into reality.
Led by 19 points and 13 rebounds from Angel Delgado and feeding off a raucous crowd that included several members of the student section once again dressed in lobster suits, Seton Hall (17-6, 7-4 Big East) overcame a rocky start and a determined Georgetown team, winning their fourth straight game by prevailing over the Hoyas (13-11, 6-5 Big East) in a physical 69-61 affair that harkened back to halcyon days for both programs.
"We understood what kind of game this was going to be," said Kevin Willard as the Pirates were tested from the opening tip to the final buzzer against a Georgetown team desperate to make their own statement with an uncertain fate surrounding them. "I thought the kids did a good job of adjusting and playing. I just thought it was a good basketball game."
Despite being outrebounded 46-44 by a taller Hoya front line, Seton Hall got excellent contributions on the glass from Delgado and Ismael Sanogo, who recorded 11 boards as Seton Hall neutralized seven-foot center Bradley Hayes.
"I thought Angel was huge down low," Willard said as Delgado recorded his fourth consecutive double-double. "I thought John (Thompson III) did a great job of bringing in (Jessie) Govan and Hayes to wear him down. I give the big guy credit. He didn't wear down, he just kept playing and playing."
So too did the Pirates as a whole, never once backing down in the second half, answering every Georgetown threat to preserve their two-possession lead. The Hoyas would get as close as two points, trailing 56-54 with five minutes remaining in regulation, but a three-pointer by Isaiah Whitehead (16 points) gave the Hall the separation they needed to hold the visitors at bay.
"I just felt we needed a big shot," Whitehead said as he recounted his trifecta from just off the right arc, which gave Seton Hall a 59-54 advantage with 3:44 on the clock. "When I caught the ball, L.J. Peak kind of backed up and was about to go turn the ball screen, so I just took the shot. Coach always has confidence in me, and the guys kept telling me 'when you get an open look that you can make, just shoot it."
As Seton Hall is maturing at the appropriate time, something Willard hit on following Wednesday night's win against Marquette, their opponent on Saturday now faces a period of soul searching as their NCAA Tournament hopes hang by a slim thread.
"We have to, for lack of a better way to put it, grow up about how we go about how we go about the flow of the game," a morose Thompson assessed. "When you play a team that's a good offensive team and your man scores a basket or they go on a run, and then we; too many times, respond to that with a poor offensive possession, an 'I'm going to get him back' possession. We have to break that cycle."
The beat goes on for Seton Hall, who wraps up their three-game homestand Wednesday night against Butler in a matchup somewhat similar to this contest, in that the Bulldogs are now salvaging a midseason swoon to keep their NCAA Tournament prospects alive. The Pirates will no doubt have the support of their fans, particularly those resembling the sea creatures that players have gone into the stands to celebrate with in recent games.
"I'll tell you what, the lobsters are awesome, man," Willard candidly offered. "Those guys come to every game and they're into it. It's not easy, I say this all the time, they've got to get on the bus, they've got to bus down, they have to get here early and then they have to get back on the bus and go back. Our students have been phenomenal. We have the highest attendance so far from our students than we've had ever, so our kids appreciate that tremendously. We do talk about the lobsters, too."