After Saturday's whistle-filled opener left fans with only a migraine headache, there were quite a few takeaways from Seton Hall's 78-76 defeat of Kent State Wednesday evening. In front of a sparse home crowd, the Pirates were led by a newfound aggressiveness in redshirt junior, Patrik Auda (15pts/4reb), a contact-seeking Sterling Gibbs and a sharp shooting Fuquan Edwin that saw Seton Hall cruise to a 9-point halftime lead.
Playing their second road game in three nights, the Golden Flashes of Kent State refused to roll over, holding tough for the remainder of the second, which saw them take the lead on a Kris Brewer 3-pointer with just over 5 minutes on the clock. Over the game's final minutes, Kent State continued to hang around, but Sterling Gibbs and Fuquan Edwin (19reb/3reb/2stl) managed to keep the lead safe, despite a near fatal 5-second blunder on Patrik Auda with 21 seconds remaining in regulation.
After struggling at the position last season, it's evident that Seton Hall has found their new starting point guard. Earning his first start of the season, Sterling Gibbs (20pts/6ast/5reb) showed why his IQ was widely raved about this offseason. For the second time in as many games, he found his way to the line (12-of-13) throughout the evening and took advantage. Gibbs not only found contact during penetration, but finished repeatedly in traffic, even twice after absorbing contact. Early in the second after driving towards two defenders, he found Gene Teague with a nifty pass who was subsequently fouled by out of position Golden Flashers. Gibbs ability to finish made his opponents commit, leaving Teague open to receive the ball and foul. Not to make a comparison at this stage in his career, but Gibbs played a very Theodore-esque game tonight. If the Pirates once again have a point guard that is fearless in penetration, willing to take contact in exchange for trips to the line, they'll be set up to win quite a few ballgames in the final minutes this season.
This game was not absent of negatives by any means. Seton Hall had numerous chances to put away a team they should have beaten easily, but failed to do so. After extending the lead to 10-point on a monstrous drive and one-handed dunk from Patrik Auda (14:10), the Pirates defense was occasionally late and out of position on the perimeter and soft around the interior for much of the second half. If the Pirates expect to get out of their easy non-conference schedule with only one loss (assuming Michigan State), they absolutely have to pull away in these type of games. Yes, the team should feel good about the win, but if they allow Mercer to stick around in a similar fashion on Saturday in their own house, I'm afraid the end result will not be pleasant. We'll have the usual quotes and notes up tomorrow afternoon as we prepare for this weekend's matinee.