NEWARK - On paper, it looked like a tough game that had a chance to add to Saint Peter's growing list of upsets. Par the course for a young Seton Hall team that hasn't taken any inferior non-conference opponents lightly, the Pirates emerged with a 67-52 win over the Peacocks at Prudential Center and improved to 8-1 on the season.
Although the first half tempo suited the visitors, Seton Hall was able to milk a 12-point advantage at the break through stingy defense and the tandem of Sterling Gibbs (12 pts) and Brandon Mobley (21 pts, 7 rebs). Offensively, everything was going through Isaiah Whitehead (5 pts, 8 rebs, 3 asts) over the first few possessions and the style of play quickly started to resemble the excessive one-on-one approach which got the Pirates in trouble at Wichita State on Tuesday.
"John [Dunne] does a tremendous job with his guys of slowing it down and making you defend in the half court. They don't turn the ball over very much, they don't beat themselves," said Willard on Saint Peter's style of play. "You have to be patient, you have to pick and choose your spots, and I thought we did a good job towards the end of the half of taking advantage of some opportunities and getting some easy buckets."
Seton Hall was able to be patient and cash in on their opportunities by scoring 18 points off of 11 Saint Peter's turnovers and by getting Mobley and Gibbs into the flow of the game.
Willard briefly removed Whitehead from the game early, which he has done frequently this season, and the Hall's attack subsequently morphed into getting Gibbs and Mobley more involved. After being squelched in Kansas, Mobley put his versatile forward skill set on display, yielding 12 first half points including a corner three-pointer as time expired that Willard said gave the team a big lift. Gibbs, who produced all 12 of his points in the first half, played more off of the ball and on the perimeter early in the half, but looked at his best when facilitating.
"I thought Brandon and Sterling steadied the ship for us early," said Willard of his veteran leadership post-game.
While Seton Hall's offense was a little shaky over the first few minutes, their defense was stout throughout most of the game. Desi Rodriguez (7 pts, 3 asts, 2 stls) was successfully able to defend the bigger Marvin Dominique (9 pts, 9 rebs) on the block and his effort was rewarded with a crowd-stimulating steal and dunk in the second half. Rodriguez' hearty all-around effort had Willard calling him a "junkyard dog kind of guy" post-game.
Khadeen Carrington (7 pts, 2 stls) was another guy that provided more high-quality minutes on both sides of the ball off of Kevin Willard's bench. A set play for a mid-range jumper was called for Carrington early in the game, which speaks volumes of the confidence Willard has in his fourth-choice freshman guard.
Just shy of another double-double, Angel Delgado's (7 pts, 12 rebs) nine offensive rebounds had Willard wondering about if he attacked the defensive glass the same way he does the offensive.
"If he would have that same mentality defensively, he would be getting 18 rebounds a game," noted Willard.
Unlike games and seasons past, Seton Hall's young team earns full marks for keeping Saint Peter's within several shouts throughout the second half. Although the Pirates were shorthanded due to injuries last season, this same Peacock team was able to trade blows throughout a 45-minute affair exactly a year ago and knocked off Rutgers by 18 points earlier this season.
Instead of any tremors following their first loss of the season, Seton Hall convincingly dispatched of another non-conference foe today before a mini road trip to South Florida and Georgia that has a few March implications attached.