In one phrase, Seton Hall's trip to Kansas on Tuesday to battle No. 11 Wichita State has been described as a learning experience.
If one phrase is meant to wrap up Seton Hall's 67-52 win over Saint Peter's on Sunday, it would involve how this team learned and built off of their first true road test. After trying to ride Isaiah Whitehead's hot hand from Tuesday early against the Peacocks, Seton Hall quickly reverted to a more team-oriented attack and locked down the defensive side of the ball en route to another comfortable non-conference win on Sunday in Newark.
Seton Hall brushed off their first loss. Everything we had seen prior to today was Seton Hall coming off of a win, building a winning streak, or not trying to look past weaker opposition. Against Saint Peter's, the Hall was dealing with their first adversity and they had an opponent that had upset them last season, but they passed all of the stress tests present after a loss.
The offensive approach improved, but is still a work in progress. Saint Peter's is weaker than Wichita State, but their defense has been a been a strength basically every season since 2006-07 when John Dunne arrived in Jersey City. With that in mind, it looked like the Peacocks had dragged Seton Hall into a game resembling last year's when most of Seton Hall's offense was going through Whitehead early on, but that ultimately didn't turn out to be the case. Brandon Mobley described the early play as a heat check of sorts for Whitehead, who shot 2 of 11 from the field, and then commented on how the team reverted back to more team-oriented play quickly.
Post-Wichita State, some of the offensive struggles were chalked up by Kevin Willard to not getting the ball in the post adequately. This was improved upon today by activating a lively Brandon Mobley (21 pts, 7 rebs, 3 blks), who was a rim rejection away from tying a career high after being held to six points in Kansas.
I can't figure out who gives the most hustle from these three freshmen. Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington, and Angel Delgado haven't earned major roles in this team because of recruiting rankings - they all play hard. Rodriguez did a great job early on when guarding a much larger Marvin Dominique in the paint, Carrington's hustle landed him on top of the scorers table, and Delgado reeled in nine offensive boards - enough said.
Unlike past Seton Hall teams, this one doesn't look past weaker opponents. By my count, they're five of five (Mercer, Nevada, Gardner-Webb, Mount St. Mary's, Saint Peter's) when the expectation is a double-digit win, though the Nevada game technically ended as an eight-point game. Perhaps more indicative of the team's mental composure is not giving any hope to teams like Mount St. Mary's, Rutgers, and now Saint Peter's when playing with a sizable lead. Similar cushions looked less of a sure thing against Nevada and Illinois State earlier this season.
Double-bonus free throws:
Seton Hall has now unofficially wrapped up their 2014-15 bragging rights for the state of New Jersey. Saint Peter's had beaten Rutgers by 18 in the other unofficial semi-final and of course won at Seton Hall last season.
Stephane Manga was sidelined today after pulling a muscle in his groin during warm ups.
Game planning with last year in mind: "That's the only thing we talked about about last year's game was Desi [Washington]. He really took over late against us last year. That's the only thing we talked about was really trying to make it difficult, almost what we tried to do with Myles Mack, he's the same type of player as Myles [...] Sterling was on him most of the time, I thought Khadeen did a pretty good job on him too."
Defensive effort: "I've been happy with our KenPom ratings. We're pretty good defensively, the only place where we really struggle and where we struggled again today is offensive rebounding. I've been happy with our KenPom numbers, they're getting better. We'll see how they hold up on the road, that's my biggest test with these guys, it's a little bit easier to play good defense at home than on the road."
On getting the ball into the paint: "That's one big emphasis he [Willard] put on practice, I had a meeting with him after the game, we watched film. It takes a lot of pressure off the guards, to give the guards a break instead of just standing on the perimeter a lot."
Offensive execution early on: "Isaiah's coming off a hot game, but then he did a great job of realizing that this night he's having an off-shooting night so he started getting others involved. He did a tremendous job of getting assists, penetrating and on the defensive end he did a great job."
On being rejected by the rim: "In practice the other day I dunked on Desi the same way, as I was going up - for real [laughs] - I was having a flashback and then by time I went up I was like ahhh yeah. We were winning so I could laugh about it, but it won't happen again I can tell you that much."
On getting the ball into the paint: "It was a big emphasis, we really wanted to go into them a lot. In practice we worked on giving them the ball, cutting, and trying to get space for them to go to work with it. I think that's what we did today and we were able to get a couple open shots."
The incentive to stop Desi Washington, Marvin Dominique after last year: "We definitely had an extra incentive to stop them. We watched last year's game a couple times that showed how he really picked us apart. So we really wanted to get up in him, I don't think he really likes too much pressure, doesn't like being physical. So we wanted to be physical with him and make him a little uncomfortable."
Desi Rodriguez' contribution: "He was big-time. Desi always comes off the bench and gives us a bit of a spark, today especially. He came off the bench, helped us rebound. The dunk, I think that honestly gave us a lot of momentum."
The focus coming into the game: "We could have put our heads down and let this one slip away, but we made sure that we'd try to get back on track and try to give us a boost going into the South Florida and Georgia games."
On if his dunk will be on SportsCenter's top 10 plays: "If it's in the top-10 I'll be so happy. I had a dunk in high school that didn't make it, but hopefully this one does."
On finding teammates easily in Saint Peter's second half zone: "Elisha Boone [Desi's high school teammate] told me if I get the ball in the middle I'm going to score, so I knew every time I got the ball in the middle and they came at me, so I looked at Brandon on the baseline and I got it to him and he scored."