Looking to start Big East play 3-0 for the first time since 1998-99, No. 19 Seton Hall was edged 69-58 by Xavier at Cintas Center in Cincinnati on Wednesday night. Freshman wing Trevon Bluiett (13 pts, 7 rebs) and point guard Dee Davis (14 pts, 6 asts) paced Xavier while Angel Delgado led the Hall in scoring with 12 points. The visitors looked over matched in the backcourt without Isaiah Whitehead for the first time with their guards combining for 18 points and nine assists and eight turnovers.
Both teams came at each other cautiously over the first few minutes of the game, something that was encapsulated by Kevin Willard starting Chier Ajou instead of Angel Delgado in order to save the freshman from early foul trouble. After a few early Brandon Mobley (9 pts, 5 rebs) jump shots missed the mark, Delgado was able to get himself going by pulling in a pair of early offensive rebounds and finishing in and around the paint.
Outside of an unexpected eight-point first half spark from Haralds Karlis (10 pts), Delgado's quick hands around the basket were Seton Hall's best offensive weapon before halftime adjustments. The Hall was able to squeeze out a 22-18 advantage before a 13-2 Xavier run that included a flagrant one on Sterling Gibbs (8 pts, 7 asts) for bulldozing into Myles Davis (8 pts, 3 asts) on a drive.
The Muskies would use the run and freshman wing Trevon Bluiett's five points during it to carry a 33-28 lead into the half. A staple of their recent run of play, Xavier held Gibbs, Khadeen Carrington (5 pts, 4 TOs) and Jaren Sina (5 pts) to just 2 points and 5 assists in the first half.
After the break, Kevin Willard was finally able to get Seton Hall's screens to become effective, but it seemed like it was the intangible play of Haralds Karlis that jumpstarted Seton Hall. Karlis drove past a defender from the corner and threw down a dunk, then set up Angel Delgado for a layin two possessions later. Using Karlis' senior-like play as an example, Gibbs and Delgado then combined to scrap for a loose ball, injecting life into the game.
Xavier was threatening to build their biggest lead of the game after back-to-back three balls gave the Musketeers an 8-0 second half run, but Sterling Gibbs promptly answered with his first triple of the game just prior to the under-eight timeout.
After Brandon Mobley picked up his fifth personal on an offensive foul with six minutes to play, Gibbs gave Seton Hall a puncher's chance by hitting another three-ball to cut Xavier's lead to 59-55, but it would only stave off the inevitable.
Seton Hall would score just six points in the six minutes after Mobley fouled out, a product of their inefficient offense on the night, inciting a 12-3 Xavier run that would ice the game for the Musketeers.
The Pirates fall to 2-1 in conference play ahead of their Saturday trip to Creighton while Xavier improves to 2-1. The Musketeers play at Butler this weekend.