Seton Hall’s loss to South Florida last January marked the beginning of a season changing losing streak. This year, the Pirates’ 55-47 win over the Bulls at Prudential Center may provide the foundation for a winning streak that salvages a pedestrian start to their Big East schedule.
Infused with new-found energy from the return of Brian Oliver (ankle) and Brandon Mobley (shoulder) to the court, Seton Hall raced out to a quick 12-4 lead over the first five minutes of play. Beyond the score, the Pirates were noticeably more protective of the basketball as they avoided the seemingly routine flurry of turnovers that Seton Hall fans are used to digesting.
On the defensive end, Seton Hall matched their early offensive prowess, holding South Florida to just 22 first half points and 32% from the field (8-25). Despite the Pirates’ above-average defense that kept the Bulls at arms length, South Florida managed six additional possessions in the form of offensive rebounds before the half, staving off a larger deficit for the Bulls.
After the break, South Florida wasted no time evaporating a 7-point first half deficit by storming out to a 6-0 run before being silenced by five straight from Fuquan Edwin, providing the first Pirate points 4 minutes into the second half. After preventing a complete reversal of roles in the first portion of the half, Seton Hall stymied a mostly impotent South Florida attack that primarily fed off of eleven second half Pirate turnovers. The Bulls’ main source of offensive production came in the form of fast breaks and broken plays that were promptly met by the clutch and incredibly efficient play of returnees Brian Oliver and Brandon Mobley. The two players combined for 23 points, 8 boards and 1 turnover on 10-of-11 shooting – nearly a flawless stat line for a rustless Oliver and unscathed Mobley that were surely the story line of the night.
Seton Hall’s performance tonight wasn’t great or even particularly good, but the return of Oliver and Mobley made a distinct impact that needs to be carried to St. John’s on Sunday and for the games that follow. While the Bulls continue to search for their second conference victory, Seton Hall hopes tonight’s win is step one towards mirroring South Florida’s improbable 8-2 game surge (sparked by a gutsy win over a hot Seton Hall), of last season, which conveniently put them in the NCAA conversation.