After a first half which contained many of the signs that surface when Seton Hall struggles, the Pirates used a 32-15 second half run over 10:41 of play to bury Eastern Washington 92-70 at Prudential Center.
Freshman guard Jaren Sina (14 pts, 2-4 3pt, 8 asts, 0 TOs) passed with flying colors after being forced to play all of the minutes at point guard with Sterling Gibbs injured. Sina came flying out of the gates on both ends of the court by scoring Seton Hall's first two baskets and playing active defense on the perimeter. Jaren then eased himself into Seton Hall's half-court sets by not trying to do too much before connecting on several killer outlet passes in the second half.
Seton Hall struggled defensively over the first 20 minutes, especially from the perimeter, but turned things around after the break. Fuquan Edwin (14 pts, 8 stls, 4 rebs, 4 asts) tied a Seton Hall single-game steal record with eight (though one credited steal was a deflection to Travis Berry) in his first game back after missing three (plus 39 minutes against LIU Brooklyn) with a sprained ankle.
Edwin's persistence on the defensive end translated to a dominant showing (15-2) by Seton Hall in transition against an Eastern Washington team that entered the game accustomed to playing quickly (30th in tempo). Edwin and Patrik Auda (6 pts, 6 mins), who also returned after missing six games with a foot injury, each threw down slams in transition, but it was Jaren Sina's over-the-shoulder full-court touchdown pass to Haralds Karlis (10 pts, 3/4 fg) that stole the show.
Although FOX Sports handed their Player of the Game award to Sina, it was perhaps Gene Teague (16 pts, 9 rebs) that made the biggest difference for Seton Hall. As has happened too often this season, Teague picked up two quick fouls in the first half that forced him to the bench. Seton Hall's offense became stagnant and perimeter-oriented while Eastern Washington waxed the Pirates on the offensive glass. A direct by-product of a Brandon Mobley (11 pts, 7 rebs)-Brian Oliver (16 pts, 2-4 3pt) frontcourt, the Eagles held a 20-10 rebounding advantage at the half, including 8 offensive boards. In the second half, Gene Teague anchored Seton Hall in both paints by scoring 15 of his 16 points and collecting all nine of his rebounds while not fouling once.
Seton Hall's crippling second half run was fueled by an Eastern Washington team that was forced to live, but mostly die, from the perimeter. This jump shot philosophy led to a 31-10 free throw attempt advantage in favor of Seton Hall late in the second half and helped the home team breakout into transition.
With the Pirate lead ballooned to 17 just prior to the under-8 media timeout, Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard intelligently inserted freshman walk-on Travis Berry (5 mins, 2 asts) into the game for Jaren Sina. Berry was given time with the ball in his hands during offensive sets and even threaded a sweet dish to Stephane Manga (8 mins, 5 pts), who nearly slammed the ball home in the paint.
A dicey two-week stretch that was bookended by upsets to Fairleigh Dickinson and Saint Peter's has been partially put aside following the return of Fuquan Edwin and Patrik Auda. Each player made an impact for Seton Hall (8-4), subsequently taking a massive load off of Jaren Sina's shoulders. Going forward, Sterling Gibbs is expected to return for the Pirates' New Year's Eve clash with Providence and center Aaron Geramipoor sometime after that. Seton Hall wraps up their non-conference slate against Patriot League opponent Lafeyette on Friday night at Walsh Gym.