Four days after edging nationally-ranked South Carolina at Madison Square Garden, the Pirates squared off in the Chris Christie Bowl against Delaware (in case you didn't know, he has a undergrad degree from Delaware and a law degree from SHU) . While it wasn't pretty at times in the first half, Seton Hall held the Blue Hens at bay in an 81-68 victory, leading wire-to-wire and improving to 9-2 on the season ahead of Friday's showdown with Rutgers.
The 5 Thoughts:
1. Unstoppable Angel
Delgado has been dominating pretty much everyone this season, and Saturday, despite spraining his ankle by stepping on a manager's foot just before the game, tied his career-high with 22 points and added 15 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season and 30th of his Pirates career. He shot 9-12 from the floor with three assists and no turnovers, and said after the game that his ankle hurt throughout, but he had to fight through it. Statistically, you would never have known he was hurting at all, as he was his usual fantastic self. His head coach added his usual dose of humor afterwards.
"(Angel) wasn't going to play," Kevin Willard said. "I said 'if you're going to play, you have to play your usual 32 minutes because we're not messing up your rebounding numbers by playing you only seven minutes'... that's when he decided to play." You can basically set your clock by Delgado having a double-double in a non-conference game at this point.
2. Madison Avenue
Senior guard Madison Jones may have played his best game against the Blue Hens, scoring a career-high 15 points and adding four assists, four steals and zero turnovers. Jones has been a steady hand at the point all year, but it may not have always shown up in the stats. Today, his "glue-guy" nature showed in the box score, and he looked very comfortable on both ends of the court. After the game, he attributed that to being back home after such a long stretch of travel (Orlando, Hawaii and MSG).
3. A Little Lax
Talent-wise, Seton Hall could have put the game away quite early in this one, but thanks to free throw shooting in the first half (2-8) and Delaware hitting at 50% from the floor in the second half, that didn't really happen until Desi Rodriguez punctuated the evening with a highlight dunk (more on that in a second).
"We should have been up 16 at halftime if we had made half our free throws," Willard said. "In the second half we got up 13 and then 15, but had two turnovers in a row for their easy buckets and we got stuck in neutral."
With final exams underway (and almost done at this point), and a huge win at the Garden in their last game coupled with the Rutgers contest coming up in their next, you can kind of understand why the Pirates weren't at their absolute best. But against a team like Delaware, who was picked last in the CAA and owned just three wins over Division-1 competition this season coming in, they didn't exactly have to be.
Seriously, just watch the clip at the link below:
Here's Gary Cohen's radio call of the moment as well:
Same old stuff from Rodriguez (meaning extremely entertaining posterizations, of course).
5. Garden State Showdown
Next game is the big one as far as Seton Hall fans and alums are concerned. The annual rivalry game with the Scarlet Knights feels a little different this time around as Rutgers is off to a 10-1 start under first year head coach and former Stony Brook boss Steve Pikiell. They have a contest with Fordham at MSG on Sunday before they come to Newark for a 6:30 tipoff on Friday night.
Bottom line when it comes to this game is this: it's ALWAYS intense and it's ALWAYS a big deal, no matter what the records say. Delgado put it in a pretty blunt way when asked about it after the game Saturday night.
"I want to keep that trophy at the Hall," the junior forward said. "I'm coming in with the mindset that we're not losing this game.... We don't like them, and they don't like us. I have friends that play there, but we're not friends when we're on the court."
There you have it. It's been pretty tilted towards the Pirates in terms of the recent results, of course, but unlike the last two years, Rutgers has some energy coming in from their strong start. Seton Hall will also have defensive-minded guard Jevon Thomas back, a player that his teammates have said has been great in practice on that end of the floor. We'll see what unfolds on Friday.