Wednesday, November 15, 2017

JP's 5 Thoughts: Seton Hall takes down Indiana in Gavitt Games

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

NEWARK, NJ -- Well, that was fun.

With an atmosphere that rivaled a big conference game at Prudential Center Wednesday night, Seton Hall roared out of the gates in the second half after a turnover-prone first half en route to an 84-68 win over the Indiana Hoosiers as part of the Gavitt Games, honoring the legacy of the Father of the Big East, Dave Gavitt.

Here are 5 takeaways from the game:

1. Feed The Beast

At the halftime break, Angel Delgado, the Pirates' all-american center, had just four points and four rebounds. With what coach Kevin Willard called a "friendly reminder" in the locker room, Seton Hall fed Delgado the ball on pretty much every possession to start the second half. The big man responded by scoring 15 points after halftime and grabbing seven rebounds, including the Pirates' first seven points out of the break. Seton Hall themselves exploded from there, with threes by Myles Powell and Khadeen Carrington ballooning the lead out to 53-39 at the 13:55 mark, and the game was elementary the rest of the way.

Delgado, by the way, had yet another double-double, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds along with four assists, two blocks and two steals. When he wasn't scoring inside (Indiana shockingly didn't double-team him hardly at all), he was drawing fouls (7-of-11 from the stripe). When he wasn't doing that, he was passing the ball, something he's become really, really good at. 

Basically, Delgado showed tonight why he's one of the best players in the country. And all it took was a friendly reminder.

2. Seniors Lead Again

Boy, in today's landscape of college basketball, being old is rare. But the last two nights for the Pirates, being old likely won them the game. This time, the opponent was from a major conference, and the performance that Delgado, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez put forth was masterful. Carrington broke out of an early-season slump by scoring 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 3-for-4 from downtown. He also added five assists, and just like the rest of the experienced players on the court, did not panic, even when the Hoosiers made a couple of first-half runs.

As for Desi, well, he turned in another great game, scoring 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 2-for-3 from downtown and 5-of-6 from the line. Overall, the triumvirate combined for 59 points on a ridiculous 19-of-28 shooting, 5-of-7 from three, 16-for-22 on free throws, 17 rebounds and nine assists.

When seniors play like seniors, that tends to be what happens sometimes, and in a big spot with a big-time atmosphere (more on this in a second), it spelled doom for a young Indiana team that showed flashes, but could not sustain any momentum.

3. Desi 

One of the things that has stuck out to me in the early part of the season (including the exhibitions) is the efficiency of Rodriguez. Including tonight, the senior matchup nightmare on the wing is averaging 16 points per game and is now shooting 17-for-32 (53 percent) from the field and 6-for-13 from downtown. I've watched Rodriguez for four years now, and there were times earlier in his Pirates career that he was off mentally, or appeared to lack confidence in himself. There were times where Willard had to coach him up, for lack of a better term.

But all that seems to be behind him. He seems to know exactly who he is and where he should be on the floor, not to mention what he should be doing. 

"Just working on my craft, that's what I've been doing," Desi said when asked what has unlocked the efficiency in his game. "That's what I've been taking seriously. I know that it's very important to up my game every season... Coach tells me to do the little things to get the crowd going, and that's what I did."

Little things, big things -- Rodriguez has done both for Seton Hall so far this season. It's been impressive to watch, that's for sure.

4. On The Other Hand...

This wasn't by any means a picture-perfect win for the Pirates. There were also things present that Seton Hall could work on for the future. One of the reasons the ball wasn't in Delgado's hands a lot in the first half was that it was being turned over before it could get there, and Indiana feasted off those giveaways, turning 11 of them into 17 points. Granted the Pirates did much better after the break, and they have moved the ball well this year. Much is made of Carrington running the point, but with all the experience the Hall has, the orange has rarely stagnated in one place. For now, chalk it up to a momentary lapse in focus for a strong team.

Lost in the second half domination as well was the fact that Indiana did shoot 49 percent for the game, and 54 percent in the second half. Indiana was pretty good in the game offensively, but like the Pirates in the first half, turnovers (eight, leading to 16 points off for the Pirates) and foul trouble (leading to a 29-12 edge in free throw attempts) killed the Hoosiers' chances. 

One possible reason for the shooting percentage allowed? A higher defensive learning curve.

"We have a pretty complicated package in right now for this time of year," Willard said. "We're doing a lot of different things... we just don't have them all down yet. But I did something different this year with defense -- I put everything in at once. If you have one guy on the floor that doesn't know what he's doing on (defense), it kills you. Right now, you can see some of the freshmen and even Myles Powell at times, they're grinding their brains instead of reacting."

"But that's okay with me," Willard added. "As long as they're getting it, they're working hard at it. It's not an effort thing. These guys are giving great effort. It's just a matter of me putting everything in really quick."

5. Big Blue Army

That's the name of the Seton Hall student section, but it could be extended to the whole crowd on Wednesday. While because of the slightly earlier start time, as well as some reported slowness at the doors with security, the full force of the crowd wasn't in their seats until the middle of the first half, but boy, oh boy, were they loud.

It was a big game against a storied opponent, and the fans made the Rock a heck of a home court. They were on their feet at appropriate times, and when the Pirates made their second-half run, the place sounded like Villanova was in the house in late January. There were several hundred fans in the house wearing Cream and Crimson, but they were drowned out by the sea of Blue and White.

As for the students, they've been tremendous the last couple years, but this year, they are fully engaged and rocking with everything the Hall does well. It says a lot when the students know exactly how far Delgado is from a double-double that they acknowledge it with a chant the instant it happens. Combine the fans with the seniors in the second half, and this was a game that the Pirates could really be proud of what the viewing audience saw.

Seton Hall takes on NJIT Saturday in their next home contest, with tipoff scheduled for 4 p.m.

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