Their lead fluctuated from 18 to 9 and back to 18, but outside of an early 3-2 Gardner-Webb advantage, it was always a lead.
Gardner-Webb was unable to stop Seton Hall's thoroughly balanced offense throughout the contest, surfacing in the form of 46 second half points that propelled the Big East school to an 85-67 win in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam. Seton Hall advances to take on the winner of Illinois State and Old Dominion on Monday night.
Seton Hall jumped out to a quick 12-3 start in a style that would be a theme of the first half. Outside of a nearly six-minute span that featured just one Pirate field goal, Seton Hall was able to do damage on the offensive end including extra possessions by way of nine first half offensive rebounds and 13 on the night. Gardner-Webb proved to be more effective scoring off turnovers and in transition than in the half court, where they mostly struggled throughout the game.
GWU clawed back and cut Seton Hall's early lead to just five at the under-eight media timeout, but effective outside shooting from Sterling Gibbs (16 pts, 3-5 3pt), Jaren Sina (14 pts, 4-6 3pt), and Isaiah Whitehead (8 pts, 1-3 3pt) and bonus points from guys like Rashed Anthony (3 pts) and Stephane Manga (4 pts) gave the Hall a 13-point advantage prior to Tyler Strange (13 pts) drilling a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
The Bulldogs came out of the break Runnin' by implementing more full court pressure and it immediately yielded a 6-2 run for the Big South school. The spurt was coupled with Brandon Mobley (5 pts, 3 blks, 3 rebs) picking up his third and fourth fouls within the first 95 seconds of the half, relegating him to the bench for the rest of the game.
Much like the first half when Gardner-Webb started to chip away at Seton Hall's lead, Kevin Willard implemented timely full court and on-ball pressure that promptly extended Seton Hall's lead to 18 after a thunderous Desi Rodriguez dunk.
The lead wouldn't last long, however.
Seton Hall's sizeable 18-point advantage wasn't as cushy as it seemed as Gardner-Webb continued to hang around and trimmed the lead down to 8 within minutes, reminiscent of the Hall's late collapse against Nevada on Friday.
Sterling Gibbs would have none of it. He stemmed the shifting momentum with one of several clutch outside shots that he drilled on the night and the Pirates wouldn't look back. Desi Rodriguez poured in 15 points, 13 of which came after the half, to compliment Gibbs' game-high 16. Angel Delgado registered the first of many double-doubles with 12 points and 11 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive glass.
Gardner-Webb wasn't able to stop Seton Hall's offense in any form all game and this amplified after center Tyrell Nelson fouled out with just over nine minutes to play, leaving the Runnin' Bulldogs exposed on the interior. Seton Hall swiftly pushed their lead back up to 18 points as quickly as they had originally lost it, and led by a fatal 23-points at the under-four timeout, effectively putting the game out of reach.