With their backs against the wall and in search of their first road win in the Big East, No. 19 Seton Hall was lifted by the red hot shooting of Sterling Gibbs in their 68-67 win over Creighton in Omaha on Saturday. Down two and with the shot clock off, Gibbs made a contested off-balance three with seconds to play to give Seton Hall the road win they've been searching for.
Gibbs scored 13 of his 22 points (4-8 3pt) in a first half that saw Seton Hall's half court offense continue to look less than potent. The Pirates started slow by failing to score over the first four minutes, but utilized a Creighton drought that spanned from the under-16 to under-12 timeouts to go on an 11-0 run that would be whittled away at by the Bluejays.
"I thought we did a much better job offensively in the second half with being a little more aggressive, a little quicker passes and taking the shots that are open," diagnosed Kevin Willard. "That's something we've got to work on."
Creighton had to battle to a two-point halftime lead without the services of senior point guard Austin Chatman, who picked up an injury 10 minutes into the game, and sharpshooter Isaiah Zierden, who sustained a knee injury before the break. Center Will Artino (14 pts, 11 rebs) was strong against Angel Delgado (7 pts, 8 rebs) in the paint while James Milliken (20 pts, 4 asts) did just about everything for Creighton offensively in Chatman's absence. Freshman walk-on Tyler Clement had to log a handful of crucial minutes without Chatman available. Several Bluejays were also battling the flu going into Saturday.
Jaren Sina (9 pts, 2 asts) provided a lift for the Hall with back-to-back three-pointers coming out of the halftime locker room, but it was Sterling Gibbs who carried the load for the Pirates again on Saturday. Gibbs consistently answered Creighton buckets, especially in the first half when his teammates couldn't get anything going on the offensive end.
Creighton was able to carve up Seton Hall's defense for the better part of the second half, but didn't quite have the offensive firepower to build up a lead of any size. The Jays were consistently able to free up shooters along the perimeter (6-of-15), but were also quite capable when taking the Hall off of the dribble. Creighton had attempted at least 20 threes in nine straight games.
"Creighton deserved to win that game, they played really well," admitted Kevin Willard post-game. "Our pick and roll defense wasn't very good. We were so self-concious about the three ball that we just kind of let them get too many layups, but these kids battled and they battled and Brandon [Mobley] and Sterling [Gibbs] made some huge plays."
While Gibbs will be the frontrunner for praise, and for good reason, it was senior Brandon Mobley (9 pts, 13 rebs) who stepped up with two baseline jumpers of high difficulty in the closing minutes. On their second-to-last possession with the game tied, Mobley missed an open three after Gibbs found him following a high screen. The missed look led to Will Artino scoring a put-back off of a James Milliken attempt that gave Creighton a two-point lead with 17 seconds to play.
This time, it was Sterling Gibbs who kept the ball after another high screen from Mobley. Gibbs used the minimal space created to sidestep to his right and take an off-balanced three that would win it for Seton Hall. Still with two seconds to work with, Creighton missed a wide-open look as time expired.
"We just wanted to get the ball in Sterling's hands at the end of the game," explained Willard. "I said ‘you just got to make a play.' They did a good job of jumping out at him, but Brandon was smart, he went right back to them [on the screen]. Sterling had a mismatch on them, and he just hit a tough shot."
Gibbs hadn't made a bucket since the 12:55 mark of the second half prior to the game-winner.
"That's a huge win for us, we really had to split this road trip, some way, some how," said Willard. "I put a lot of pressure on these guys to get the split and they did a great job doing it."
Now 3-1 in the Big East, Seton Hall flies home from Omaha today before hosting Butler at Prudential Center on Tuesday night. Creighton drops to 0-4 in conference play and have lost five straight.