First half offensive miscues and tough Xavier defense of No. 19 Seton Hall's guards turned out to be a recipe for the Pirates' first loss of their Big East campaign on the road Wednesday night. Angel Delgado produced 12 points and six rebounds while outplaying Matt Stainbrook and Sterling Gibbs eked out eight points and seven assists in the 69-58 defeat.
Kevin Willard spoke post-game about how tough it is to win on the road in the Big East and how his guards came up short tonight in a game which they were needed to produce. Those quotes are included below following a few of my takeaways from the game.
Seton Hall missed Isaiah Whitehead tonight. For the first time Whitehead was sidelined with a stress fracture, his absence was noticeable. Xavier was well prepared to shutdown Seton Hall's guards and executed the task at hand with Remy Abell playing a huge role. Carrington, Sina and Gibbs were held to 18 points (7-25 fg), nine assists and eight turnovers. The Pirates weren't able to get their screen game going until the second half and looked desperate for any kind of spark, something that Haralds Karlis was able to provide momentarily.
Angel Delgado outplayed Matt Stainbrook. Kevin Willard had to start Chier Ajou, a savvy move that avoided Delgado's first foul until the 6:31 of the second half, but it worked. Delgado looked to get the better of one of the most effective centers in the league and his ability to finish efficiently around the offensive tin showed further improvement tonight -- it looks like Angel's free throw shooting is rapidly progressing as well.
Three-pointers hurt the Hall tonight. 7-of-26 isn't good enough. Many of the Pirates' attempts were forced, especially in the first half, and were a sign of Xavier's defense clamping down on the visitor's guards. Sina and Gibbs were a combined 3-of-14, a handful of which were forced.
On Xavier clamping down: "Actually I thought it was the first half, I thought the second half we actually got great looks. We moved the ball, we got open shots, we shot 46-percent in the second half. First half we had a couple turnovers that led to their transition, that really hurt us. And we just took a lot of challenged shots, off the first reversal, not ball faking, getting in the lane, kicking out."
His guard play: "We can't have Jaren and sterling and Khadeen go [statline], that hurts you. Those are our three guys we need to play well. They played hard, I thought they did a pretty good job defensively, those three guys, I thought they battled. It's going to be a good learning lesson for all three of them: when you're playing good and you're playing a lot of minutes, they're not just going to give you easy shots."
On Xavier shutting it down defensively: "They did a good job. The kid Remy Abell is a very good defender, he did a good job of D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Sterling still had 7 assists and 1 turnover, so that was terrific. He had a tough shooting night, he took a lot of tough ones early, Brandon [Mobley] did the same thing, that kind of gets you out of your rhythm a little bit."
The difference in the game: "I thought the big difference was we had two open threes in the second half, that we missed and then we missed the two free throws. I don't know what time Brandon's two missed free throws were at, you can't do that on the road. We need to make a shot there, we need to make those free throws. But again, guys battled, kids did a really good job. Our turnovers in the first half just gave them too many easy points, I think they had 12 fast break points in the first half and they only ended up with 15."
On Haralds Karlis playing well: "Yeah, but he's got to play better. I expect Haralds to make shots, I have great faith in his shooting ability, but you play 24 minutes and you don't have a rebound, you have no assists, and three turnovers. That's with Khadeen and Jaren too, if you're not shooting the ball great, you can't have those guys go for two assists, I can't even do the math on that, nine turnovers. Your point guard can't do that. That's kind of the game."
On road struggles: "On the road you've got to play better and you've got to take care of the basketball. They did a good job of bumping our roll guys and getting out to the weak side fill-replace guy. We just got kind of stagnant on that, we had worked a couple days - Villanova did the same thing - we have to learn to trust the second and third options. Like I said, this team is going to be a constant work in progress. To come on the road and play at a tough place and have a chance, that's what I wanted to see from these guys."
"We didn't lose our focus on the basketball standpoint, we're losing our focus a little bit on everything that leads into that. We've got to clean up, just little things. Sometimes, young kids who play hard and do a lot of good things, they've got to learn how to win on the road. I don't think they realize not only are they playing the five guys on the court, they're playing the 12,000 in the building, 50-50 calls that you're used to getting at home, you don't get those calls on the road. They've got to learn that, you've got to play a little bit more physical, a little bit tougher at times when you drive. It's all part of the learning process."
When asked about Creighton on Saturday: "I don't know if they're struggling, on the road, there's still only been three road wins in this league. To think you're just going to win a road game, is ridiculous in this league. It's too tough a league, it's too balanced. That's what I told my guys, it's great that they have the confidence that they can come in and win, it's something that I don't want to ever lose with these guys, but they have to understand on the road, you're battling so many more elements than just a team. It doesn't happen in one game, people will say what about Wichita State - you don't learn after one time. It's a continual process. They'll do it and they'll figure it out."