Desi Rodriguez made first 10 shots en route to team-leading 25 points in Seton Hall's win over DePaul. (Photo by Vincent Carchietta/SNY)
NEWARK, NJ -- With a slight lull in his production heading into Saturday's game against DePaul, Desi Rodriguez decided a change in tactics was in order.
The junior swingman, firmly entrenched in Kevin Willard's starting lineup, practiced with the second unit all week, a decision created of his own volition. The move paid off, at least short-term, as the Bronx native scored a team-high 25 points to help Seton Hall take control in the opening minutes and drive away with an 87-56 victory over the Blue Demons at the Prudential Center.
"I believe what helped me this whole week, after we lost to Creighton, I went on the opposite team in practice," Rodriguez revealed after he was one of four Pirates in double figures to give Seton Hall (12-3, 2-1 Big East) its second consecutive win following a December 28 loss to the Bluejays in the league opener. "I just wanted to challenge everybody more and I wanted people to challenge me, so I was playing against Khadeen (Carrington) and guarding Khadeen in practice. I think that's what helped me come out strong today defensively."
For as strong as the defensive effort was, though, Rodriguez was heavily bolstered by a 10-for-13 shooting effort, connecting on five of his seven three-point field goal attempts. The junior made his first ten shots, and used two passes from Angel Delgado (20 points and 12 rebounds for his ninth straight double-double and 11th of the season) to set the tone for his banner afternoon.
"I think the two easy looks Angel gave to him on the post-ups really kind of just got his motor going," said Willard. "When he makes one, when he sees one go in, he'll start firing. He played tremendously."
DePaul (7-9, 0-3 Big East) remained within earshot through most of the opening stanza, trailing by five after an Eli Cain three-pointer with 1:39 before the intermission made the score 36-31. But Seton Hall responded with a 31-4 run spanning the end of the first half and first nine minutes after the break to effectively close out the game and provide Willard with the luxury of getting everyone involved in the final tuneup before a three-game road trip to the likes of Marquette, Providence and Villanova begins in earnest on Wednesday.
Besides Rodriguez and Delgado, Myles Powell contributed 13 points off the bench, with Khadeen Carrington adding 10 to supplement the winning cause. For DePaul, Billy Garrett Jr. led the way with 22 points, but no other Blue Demon registered more than nine.
At the end of the day, however, it was a renewed confidence that permeated the Seton Hall locker room, led by a resurgent effort from one of the regular contributors to get the ball rolling in the right direction heading to Milwaukee.
"It feels great just to get back to my realm," said Rodriguez. "I've been kind of sluggish lately, but knocking down my shots gives me confidence. Everything started coming together, and I needed that for my team."