Saturday, November 4, 2017

Seton Hall 77, LIU Post 48: 5 Thoughts

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- Seton Hall easily defeated Division II LIU Post on Saturday at Walsh Gym in their second preseason matchup by a final score of 77-48. The Pirates held a commanding lead of 40-18 at halftime and held off the visitors from there, with several good things taking place in front of a crowd of 1,215 in South Orange. Here are the 5 Thoughts:

1. As Expected
LIU Post came out ready to play, and hit a couple of early threes. After the first five minutes of the first half, however, Seton Hall just overwhelmed the Pioneers with their size, skill and length. Nearly every shot LIU Post took was contested in the first half, and on the other end, they didn’t stand much of a chance against Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and company.

In the second half, the Pirates couldn’t make a shot despite some good looks, but still gave themselves opportunities by feasting on the boards. They may have missed 24 shots in the second stanza, but rebounded 15 of those themselves to finish with a whopping 21 offensive rebounds for the game, crushing the Pioneers 53-28 on the glass overall. Head coach Kevin Willard said that after the La Salle game Thursday, the team practiced hard for three hours, something they don’t normally do, but was proud of the effort in practice immediately after a game.

“Our energy wasn’t what it has been,” Willard said of the game against LIU Post. “But I’m okay with that, because practice yesterday was great.”

After being tested by an experienced La Salle team Thursday night, this was exactly how everyone thought the contest would go, with the Pirates netting an easy win to gear up for the real thing next weekend.

2. Desi Dominates (Again)
Rodriguez followed up a 22-point effort against La Salle with another good one against LIU Post, leading all scorers with an efficient 18 points. Perhaps the biggest matchup problem not named Delgado for most teams, let alone Division II squads, he killed LIU Post in every way possible. On defense, he nabbed three steals in the first half en route to a couple #DunkinDesi moments. He hit from the outside and on drives inside as well, and was definitely the best player on the floor in the first half as the Hall pulled away.

3. M.I.A
Myles Powell and Ish Sanogo did not play today because of what Kevin Willard called a “minor team violation...nothing major.” It beats the alternative of those guys being hurt, and the Pirates definitely didn’t need either to beat LIU Post. Expect both to be back for opening night on Friday against FDU.

4. Freshmen Report
I’ve written that the Pirates’ young supporting cast will play a big role in how far the team goes this season, complementing the core of seniors that will (deservedly) get most of opponents’ attention. Early reports are in, and so far, Jordan Walker, Myles Cale and Sandro Mamukelashvili look like they can play. 

Walker is a bundle of energy, and while his jumper definitely needs work, his quickness is legit on both ends, and he also looks quite comfortable with the ball in his hands as a point guard. Cale played better today than against La Salle, and knocked down a couple of smooth triples in a row from the right wing, indicating a guy who can perhaps get hot for stretches of time as a frosh. Mamukelashvili is just tremendously skilled at his size -- he can get a rebound on defense, dribble the ball up the floor, and use his vision to find the open man while also being able to hit from outside. He didn’t score in the first half, but had eight rebounds, indicating that he’s not just a finesse guy. He ended up with 13 boards for the game as well as four blocks defensively, leading all players and showing a nose for the ball that you can’t teach. Something else was plainly evident about the young group when Cale and Walker were on the floor for the last five minutes with Romaro Gill and walk-ons Phillip Flory and Shavar Reynolds: Hustle and effort.

“Phil, Shavar, Myles, Jordan -- those guys all play with great energy,” Willard said. “The crowd (loved it). We had three guys dive on the floor, a good block by ‘Ro’... that last unit the last five minutes played with really good energy.”

5. Now The Real Fun Begins
As good as the Pirates looked for stretches against La Salle and LIU Post, it starts counting in the win-loss columns on Friday against a good Fairleigh Dickinson squad projected to be one of the top teams in the Northeast Conference. There was lots of good shown by the Pirates this weekend, and some not-so-good to go with it, but the main thing is that the players got a chance to get their feet wet, particularly the young players, and as far as entering the season, the head coach is pleased.

“I don’t look at too much other stuff other than trying to get everybody back in a good rhythm,” Willard said. "Thursday was a good test of that -- I was really happy with the first half on Thursday. And then today, I was really happy with the way they practiced yesterday. We really went hard for a long time, so I was happy with their mentality coming off of a game.”

Seton Hall opens at Prudential Center at 6:30 p.m. Friday, kicking off their quest for a third-straight NCAA Tournament berth. We’ll have the ride for you this year on Daly Dose of Hoops.

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