Wichita State cashed in on a stream of early Seton Hall turnovers as the Shockers eased to a 77-68 victory at the Roundhouse on Tuesday night. Isaiah Whitehead led all scorers with an impressive 23 points while guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet combined for 40 points and 12 assists.
Despite the game not being close for the better part of 25 minutes, Seton Hall actually got off to a positive start. The Pirates were active on defense, especially with switches, and an early 8-0 Isaiah Whitehead run gave the Hall a 13-8 advantage at the under-12 timeout.
The early cushion was eroded by turnovers that would severely handicap the visitors.
"Our turnovers gave them easy buckets," observed Kevin Willard on AM 970 after the game. "That really hurts you. When you're on the road, you can't give up easy buckets."
No. 11 Wichita State's defense on screens and rolls forced several deflections that resulted in easy baskets and untimely offensive fouls on Seton Hall forwards helped turn the tide. The Shockers scored 17 points off 12 first half Seton Hall turnovers, the front end of which fueled a 17-5 run that gave Gregg Marshall's team their separation. The Pirates would go on to turn it over 18 times in total.
"To only have 6 assists and 18 turnovers, you're not going to win on the road," remarked Willard.
Unlike their game against Rutgers, Seton Hall failed to turn a stout early defensive effort into points while Wichita State validated their 22nd-best turnover percentage and kept the rock safe and secure. As a result, the Pirates' half-court offense couldn't get going: from the 16:30 to :33 mark, only Isaiah Whitehead was able to score.
"All these guys, they battled, they played hard, we just didn't play well offensively and when you don't play well offensively on the road, you're going to lose," said Willard. "Especially when we turn it over as much as we did in the ways that we did. And even when we had some opportunities to get a steal and get going, we'd turn it back over. When it's going that way, it's going that way."
If there were any major adjustments made by Seton Hall at the half, they lasted all of eight seconds. Angel Delgado (8 pts, 7 rebs) committed an offensive foul during the Pirates' first possession - a turnover - then picked up his fourth on Wichita State's first trip up the court.
Seton Hall's early second half struggles were compounded when Isaiah Whitehead came down hard on his right shoulder after a rebound 90 seconds into the period. Whitehead left the bench for the visiting locker room after grimacing in pain while being looked at by Director of Sports Medicine Tony Testa. Whitehead would re-enter the game three minutes later.
His brief absence was enough time for Sterling Gibbs (19 pts, 4 asts, 5 TOs) to emerge on the scene after a timid first half in which he was held scoreless. A more aggressive Gibbs produced 10 points during the middle portion of the second period, cutting the deficit to 14 with ten minutes to play, but that was as close as Seton Hall would get until a barrage of late triples kept the score respectable.
Wichita State was an efficient 6 of 13 from three-point territory as Fred VanVleet (18 pts, 8 asts) and Ron Baker (22 pts, 4 asts) showed why they are one of the premier guard tandems in the country. Forward Darius Carter (16 pts, 12 rebs) held a stark advantage in the post after Angel Delgado picked up his fourth foul 47 seconds into the second half. Delgado was fairly emotional on the court tonight and that reared its head via fouls.
The loss was Seton Hall's first of the season and will act as a significant humbling experience to see what it will take to next step as a team. The Pirates travel back to Jersey to take on Saint Peter's on Sunday afternoon.
"It's a great learning lesson for us and it's coming at a great time, it really is," said Kevin Willard. "Everyone played hard, even though we were struggling offensively, we still battled for the most part defensively. I was proud of them."