He hadn't made a field goal in nearly 13 minutes of play, but that didn't matter with the game in Sterling Gibbs' hands and the clock close to expiring at CenturyLink Arena on Saturday. Gibbs' heroics, something we've seen before and will see a few more times before his time is up in South Orange, came when Seton Hall needed them most, and boy did he deliver.
Seton Hall didn't play offense particularly well in the first half and then took a few punches from Creighton when defending in the second half, but managed to squeak out a win in a game that Kevin Willard thought they deserved to lose. My thoughts and post-game quotes from Willard:
Seton Hall won without playing their best. Don't get me wrong, I thought the Hall had a favorable match up coming into the game and Creighton was playing shorthanded, but it was refreshing to see them grind out a road win while not playing at their best. Willard perhaps diagnoses it better than I can (see below), but the offense has looked stale at times and lacking the extra dimension that Isaiah Whitehead brings. Jaren Sina's three triples and 19 points from Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez kept the ship afloat when Gibbs wasn't scoring. Creighton deserves credit of course, but this one of the Pirates' worst defensive efforts in quite a few games.
Let's not forget about Brandon Mobley. His stat line won't pop out at you and perhaps he should have blocked out Will Artino on Creighton's late go-ahead basket, but Mobley came up big today. Brandon's two late baseline jumpers came during a crucial stretch and he had half of Seton Hall's 14 offensive boards, the mark of a senior.
Road win formula. That's what I thought when I saw that Seton Hall held Creighton to three points off turnovers, 12 second chance points, and just five points in transition. In these three categories, the Pirates were +19 in points and were a big reason why they won. Seton Hall was also +2 in turnover margin after coughing the rock up just seven times and only twice in the second half.
Looking ahead, this was a big win. Willard made sure his guys knew that finishing their road trip 1-1 was the goal, but he probably followed a different line of reasoning. With home games against Butler and DePaul looming prior to a road trip to Butler and Marquette, there's a fairly good chance Seton Hall can start conference play 6-2 or better.
Seton Hall will probably remain ranked on Monday. I don't see seven teams (No. 19-25) that will leapfrog the Pirates after losing to Xavier on the road. No. 21 Baylor, No. 22 Ohio State, and No. 24 St. John's also lost this week while No. 25 Old Dominion currently trails Western Kentucky. Teams getting a lot of votes like Iowa, Temple and Butler have also dropped games since last Monday.
When asked about his post-game emotions: "Creighton deserved to win that game, they really played well. He switched up his lineup, we had prepared for Brooks and Chatman, and Chatman doesn't play. Zierden doesn't play, and the kid Milliken just plays great ... 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 and Sterling made some huge plays."
On the game-winning shot: "We just wanted to get the ball in Sterling's hands at the end of the game, and 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. Sterling had a mismatch on them, and he just hit a tough shot."
Creighton played terrific, Greg does an unbelievable job. They space the floor, they move well. I thought [Will] Artino played the best I've seen him play in a long time, a total game.
On what the win means: "A huge win for us, we really had to split this road trip, some way, some how. I put a lot of pressure on these guys to get the split and they did a great job doing it."
"We almost found a way to lose the game, to be honest ... The last play, I think every one of their guys was open on that last play."
On his team's play: "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. That's something we've got to work on. When you're open after a couple options in this league, you've got to take it. I feel like we're almost looking for the perfect shot, and in this league there's no such thing as a perfect shot."
"We're going to shoot a lot of threes right now until we get Isaiah back, because Isaiah [Whitehead] gives us a different option on the wing."
Willard added that he's hoping to have Isaiah Whitehead back for the DePaul game later this month.
On his forwards' play: "I always get worried on these short rotations [days between games] with Brandon. He's playing so hard this year, sometimes he doesn't bounce back. Having Angel down there is helping him a little and I thought him and Angel really played a solid game."
On Creighton's offensive success: "They out layupped us. It's gotten to the point where I think Greg [McDermott] has realized they can't rely on the three. They only took 15 threes and they were really aggressive getting into the lane. They started driving on us, driving on us. Even though you try to make the adjustment for two days, we worked on getting out on Zierden, getting out on 32 [Toby Hegner], they made a good adjustment and they drove.
"Again, a great team effort. Terrible defensively, but sometimes on the road you don't always play great defensively, I'm glad we played well offensively."