NEWARK - Seton Hall stayed undefeated and improved to 5-0 with a gritty 58-54 win over George Washington at Prudential Center on Saturday. Isaiah Whitehead (15 pts, 6 rebs, 5 asts) and Brandon Mobley (14 pts, 5 rebs) carried the load for the Pirates while George Washington guard Kethan Savage led all scorers with a 19-point 6-rebound effort.
The Pirates looked the push the pace early, but George Washington would have none of it. The Colonials bogged the tempo down through poised halfcourt sets and 14 offensive rebounds, a third of which came early in the game.
To Seton Hall's advantage, George Washington was uncharacteristically careless with the ball. The Colonials registered 12 first half turnovers and 18 on the day, most of which were forced through effective halfcourt ball pressure and several defensive looks on Seton Hall's behalf. The turnovers hampered an attack spearheaded by guard Kethan Savage (19 pts, 6 rebs) and Argentine small forward Patricio Garino (10 pts, 5 rebs).
After struggling from the field early, Seton Hall's offense was ran through Isaiah Whitehead (15 pts, 6 rebs, 5 asts), who took on a lead guard role. Mirroring his performances so far this season, Whitehead missed several attempts over the first few minutes but after skillfully finding teammates on several occasions, his shots started to fall.
"It's just about facilitating first," explained Whitehead post-game. "I feel like if I faciliate the defense will back off of me a little bit and it will open up my shots a little bit like it did tonight."
Whitehead, who was fairly effective from the field, also did damage by way of five assists, all of which came in the first half. He could have had a higher total before the half, but missed lay ups followed a few of his brilliant set ups.
George Washington was effective at slowing things down after the half (8-2 run) and was met by cold Pirate shooting (2-14 3pt), resulting in an 8-2 Colonial run out of the locker room. Just as Seton Hall thought they saw some offensive daylight when point guard Joe McDonald checked out early in the second half with four fouls, George Washington morphed into a zone defense that further stymied the home team.
GW's zone was able to keep the Hall's scoring at bay, but fouls started to mount mid-way through the half when Seton Hall found themselves in the bonus prior to the under-12 media timeout. This preceded a lineup of Brandon Mobley (14 pts), Angel Delgado (10 pts, 10 rebs), Stephane Manga (2 pts), Khadeen Carrington (2 pts), and Rashed Anthony (2 rebs) that cracked George Washington's zone through mid-range jumpers and strong full court defense that sparked an 8-2 run of their own. While an unconventional lineup, Willard appeared to pull the right strings as they gelled together when needed most.
"We continued to stay in the game and make defensive plays," illustrated Kevin Willard. "For a young team to be struggling offensively and stay with it defensively, it really showed me a lot."
"Everything has to be defense first, defense first, as long as a we play defense our offense will come," added Isaiah Whitehead. "That's just our motto right now."
Much of the game, especially the second half, was about grit and grinding a win out. Fittingly, that's exactly how the contest ended after being a one-possession game nearly throughout. Although it looked like a dubious call live and on replay, Isaiah Whitehead set himself up to take a game-winning charge on a driving Kethan Savage with the Pirates up two and just seven-tenths of a second left on the clock.
"He was out of control, there were limited motions he could do except run into me, so I just took it," narrated Whitehead.
"That's big-time," said Brandon Mobley of Whitehead drawing the charge. "I told all of them [the freshmen] when they first got here, it's the little things that win games, it's not the game-winning shot, it's the charges, the deflections, the jump balls."