Saturday, January 7, 2017

Seton Hall 87, DePaul 56: 5 Thoughts

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

The Pirates came into a matchup with the DePaul Blue Demons after a six-day layoff looking slightly rusty, but after they worked out the kinks, they started rolling, shredding DePaul's defense and making it look easy in an eventual 31-point win, 87-56, to improve to 2-1 in Big East play. Here are the 5 Thoughts from an enjoyable win in snowy Newark:

1. Desi The Magnificent

The clear story of the first half was Desi Rodriguez, who nailed every single one of his nine shots (five from deep) in the first half, looking like Jeremy Hazell en route to 23 points in the first 20 minutes. 

Not only that, but although he didn't score too much in the second half, he also wasn't forcing shots. Instead, he looked to get others involved.

"Every shot I took in the first half was a good shot," Desi said after the game. "In the second half, I didn't want to mess that up, so I ran the offense and looked to pass the ball."

There was also a point in the first half I'd like to mention where DePaul's Billy Garrett Jr. dunked right over Rodriguez on the break. In other years, that would have gotten the junior riled up and playing outside himself. But Desi, who's quietly scored in double figures in 14 of the Pirates' 15 games this season (four times with 20 or more, if that can be called the least bit "quiet") responded by coming back down and knocking down a triple, keeping things flowing and staying the course.

"He got two...easy buckets (early), and I think that really got him going whereas some games in the past he's maybe missed a three to start," head coach Kevin Willard said after the game. "I think the two looks Angel gave to him really got his motor going, and when he sees a couple go in, he'll keep firing. I also thought he played tremendous defensively."

All-around, a great day for Desi.

2. Helping Hands

The other big story of the game (other than Desi and Angel Delgado dominating DePaul's frontcourt) was ball movement. Seton Hall handed out 21 assists on their 33 made baskets, a fantastic number, while holding DePaul to just four assists total (on 20 baskets) in the game. 

"We had a good week of practice where we talked about doing a little less one-on-one in transition, being a little more simple," Willard said. "Even Angel, making the simpler passes out of double-teams. I thought we had a very effective week of practicing on offense."

Effective indeed. Seton Hall was fantastic sharing the ball, with SIX different Pirates finishing with multiple assists (none with more than four helpers). When they moves the ball like that, and knock down the resulting shots, they are awfully tough to stop, and combined with their defensive intensity to start the second half, they just overwhelmed the Blue Demons, going on a 31-4 run that bridged the two halves and effectively ended the game.

3. Delgado Don't Care

...about double-doubles, I mean. It might sound crazy considering Angel put up his ninth such game in a row, being his usual monster self with 20 points and 12 rebounds on 8-9 shooting and 4-4 from the free throw line (!), but he really doesn't care about the statistics. All the guy cares about is whether the team wins, and every time we press types bring it up, he laughs it off and keeps the focus on the team.

Never mind that he's got a streak now of double-doubles that hasn't been seen since the late Eddie Griffin was on campus (he had a streak of 10 double-doubles in a row that Delgado can match at Marquette next week), or that his improved passing abilities have opened up the floor for his teammates and himself, or that his stats rank him right up there with the best post players in the nation. "If I get one point and one rebound and the team wins, I'll be happy," Angel said after the game today.

Rare is it today to see a player who, while aware of the statistical accomplishments ("I know (about the double-doubles) because you guys always tell me!"), considers them as just a secondary part of his game. In an age where so many numbers are available to sports fans, Delgado only cares about one - the win total.

4. Second String On Stage

This game was such a rout so early that Willard got Eron Gordon, Dalton Soffer and Rashed Anthony some extended minutes. Gordon had six points, five rebounds and a pair of assists, while Soffer knocked down a couple threes. 

Those guys have barely seen any time off the Pirates bench this year, but you have to give them credit for being ready. It's one thing to be able to play the guys at the end of the bench, but it's another thing for them to come in, against DePaul's starters (who played basically the whole way), and hold the line. The Seton Hall lead never got slimmer than 28 points down the stretch. Kudos to the bench for being ready and allowing Willard to rest his primary guys for the final 9 minutes or so.

5. Road Trippin'

The Pirates have a tough road ahead, literally. They now have to go to Marquette (a team that just put up a heck of a fight in Newark only to collapse late when the Pirates made all the hustle plays), Providence (who, while Dunn-and-Bentil-less, are still a tough out under Ed Cooley at "The Dunk") and Villanova (where Seton Hall hasn't won since the Clinton administration and where they will take on a top-5 team and the reigning national champs). All in the span of six days.

The schedule-makers certainly weren't kind to the Pirates, but it is what it is. Seton Hall would be wise to keep the team play shown in the win over the Blue Demons up, because they'll need it. The school motto is Hazard Zet Forward, and there will be some hazards up ahead. How they perform may be an indicator of where their season ultimately heads. The Pirates won a whole bunch of conference road games last year - can they duplicate the magic this time around?

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