Tuesday, December 12, 2017

JP's 3 Thoughts: Seton Hall takes down Saint Peter's on campus

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- Armed with their first top-15 ranking since 2001, the 15th-ranked Seton Hall Pirates trounced the Saint Peter’s Peacocks, 84-61, in South Orange. Angel Delgado led the way with his 57th career double-double, pouring in 18 points along with 11 rebounds (passing Ken House to move into third place all-time in SHU history in rebounding), while Desi Rodriguez was his efficient self again, scoring 17 points along with six boards and three corner triples. Khadeen Carrington also contributed 11 points, five assists and no turnovers as the Hall led throughout. The game wasn’t close, so here are three thoughts on another impressive effort:

1. Purpose-Driven Start
Well, the Pirates certainly came out like a top-15 team tonight. Their defense suffocated Saint Peter’s completely, and they also got run-outs in transition, which represent death for opposing teams. The Pirates built up a near-immediate 10-point cushion and never looked back as the Peacocks were stifled into 1-for-12 shooting to start the game.

“I loved the way we came out and played defensively,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “We talked about taking away (Peacocks leading scorer Nick) Griffin, making it hard for him to get shots. I thought we came out and really the first 10 minutes of the game defensively played great.”

The Pirates even played a few possessions of zone defense, which is definitely out of the ordinary, but also worked like a charm.

“We played a little bit of zone at the beginning of the game to try and get them out of rhythm,” Willard added. “If you let them get in rhythm, they’re going to make shots, which they did in the second half. But really we just wanted to come out with the same intensity as the VCU game, and I thought we did a good job.”

Playing the Hall is a tough task no matter what, but for a rebuilding team like Saint Peter’s, which lost three pillar-type seniors from a year ago when they went on to win the CIT, they basically never had a chance.

2. Rivalry Renewed
After not playing Saint Peter’s for the first time since the 1948-49 season last year, John Dunne’s squad came to South Orange to renew the longstanding series between the two oldest Catholic colleges in the state of New Jersey. For whatever reason, the two teams couldn’t get their schedules to match up in 2016-17, so it was nice to see them hook up once more. Plus, it gave the Pirates an opportunity to take their true home floor at Walsh Gym as a top-15 team for the first time since December 4, 2001, when the late Eddie Griffin recorded the first (and still only) triple-double in Seton Hall basketball history for the then-eighth-ranked Pirates. Obviously, that doesn’t happen every day, so it was a win on all fronts.

3. (Another) Rivalry Renewed
On paper, the Pirates’ upcoming game with Rutgers on Saturday should be an easy win, even on the road at what should be a raucous RAC in Piscataway. But although it has not been close the last few years with the Pirates surging and the Scarlet Knights languishing, if there’s one thing about Seton Hall-Rutgers, it’s that you cannot predict what exactly is going to happen.

There are worse positions to be in entering such a contest, however.

“The good thing about having a senior group is they understand how good the local schools are,” Willard said. “They all know each other, they all respect each other… it’s tough because some of the younger kids, they don’t understand college basketball yet- that anyone can beat anybody on any given night if you don’t bring it. The seniors have done a phenomenal job with the younger kids of getting them to understand that… it’s a bigger game, it’s their chance to knock us off.”

Will the Pirates win? Probably. Will it be close? I would wager it will be closer than folks think. It usually is. You can be sure the Pirates will be up for it.

“It’s the best game of the year,” Delgado said. “I always take that game personally. It’s going to be a great game. They’re going to be ready for us, so we have to be ready for them.”

Tipoff is set for noon Saturday.

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