NEWARK, NJ -- With a quick turnaround from Friday's opening win over Fairleigh Dickinson, 23rd-ranked Seton Hall surged ahead in the middle of the first half and never let the Monmouth Hawks seriously threaten that lead in a 75-65 win at Prudential Center in Newark. Here are the 5 Thoughts:
1. Too Good
After Monmouth stayed right with the Pirates thanks to a 5-for-5 showing from behind the arc by Micah Seaborn and Deion Hammond, Seton Hall began to pull away from the Hawks by attacking them in every area. While the Pirates' and Hawks' shooting percentages for the game and from three-point land were high for both halves, Seton Hall was able to use their defensive energy to get the Hawks out of sync. For the game, they forced 21 turnovers and scored 22 points off of those giveaways. Combine that with good offensive rebounding, (19 offensive boards, leading to 20 second chance points) and Seton Hall won the day.
"Once we got our defensive energy going, I really thought we played a good first half," head coach Kevin Willard said. "We finally got into our press -- we scored a couple times, got into our press and it got them out of rhythm. It kind of gave us some good energy -- once we play with that pace, although we give some things up in our press, it kind of gets us opportunities where we don't have to grind in the half court."
2. Veterans' Day
Willard said he was pleased in the preseason with how the Pirates handled the turnaround from one exhibition game to the next. Today's game was the second in three nights for Seton Hall, and while the Pirates' youth; specifically Myles Cale, was a big story on Friday, the veterans stepped up and led today, with Angel Delgado getting 17 points and 10 boards for his customary double-double (14th straight in the regular season and 52nd of his incredible career), Khadeen Carrington putting up 14 points and four assists with four steals and only one turnover, and Michael Nzei turning five offensive rebounds into 10 points.
"I'm kind of used to it -- these freshmen aren't used to it, but I am," Delgado said of the two-game weekend. "Coach tries to get us prepared for the Big East (schedule), so games like this help us and we have to take care of these games."
3. Powell Power
The star of the game, especially in the first half, was Myles Powell. The sophomore guard's hot shooting in the first half was a key factor in the Pirates gaining that aforementioned lead, and although he was quiet in the second half, Powell ended up with a team-high 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting and 4-of-9 from three-point range. He was confident in his shot and also on the defensive end.
Coming into college last season, Powell drastically changed his body, losing a lot of excess weight, but he was still getting used to being lighter last year. This season, his confidence is up, and it shows pretty much night in and night out. Powell's X-factor status could also grow as the year goes on if he continues to play like he did Sunday, making the sky the limit for the man they call "Cheese."
"I don't think everyone's seen how good he's going to be yet," Willard said. "He hasn't played nearly as well (in games) as he has in practice and once he gets his game legs under him, I can see him on any given night getting 20-25 with the way he's shooting, the way that first unit really understands how he opens up the floor."
4. Garden State Target
With the win Sunday, Seton Hall improved to 13-0 all-time against Monmouth, an extension of their dominance really over the entire state of New Jersey. The Pirates now have an overall record of 162-60 against Garden State opponents, winning those games at an over 70 percent clip. Kevin Willard has been on both sides of the local coin, and keeping focused is key in games against local schools.
"Playing the local teams, when I was at Iona and you play St. John's, Seton Hall... it's like a Super Bowl game. It's such a different feeling on this side because losing one of those games, in my position -- it's a killer for you. I think I grind the guys way too much... but it's just trying to get them to understand the mentality from the Monmouth side, the Saint Peter's side. I know how good their players are -- the coaches in this state are really good coaches, and keeping your guys on edge is, to me, the toughest thing about playing the local teams."
Consider today's test a success then, as despite a down second half offensively, Monmouth never got closer than 10 points, and the game was not as close as the final margin.
Seton Hall's next test is at home in the Gavitt Games Wednesday against the Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana is a big-time name program, and while they are definitely not at the level of a few years back; and far removed from the glory days of Bob Knight, they're still going to represent another level up from FDU and Monmouth. The Hoosiers just got beaten on their home floor by Indiana State by 21 points, but have a date with Howard in Bloomington Sunday night before coming to Newark, so at this writing, they are likely to bounce back from that in-state home loss. We'll see how the Hall responds against high major competition, but the Pirates have started off their season of great expectations well, with two comfortable wins. Tipoff is slated for 6:30 p.m.