Seton Hall fended off a seventh straight loss and a winless February by rallying from a 12-point second half deficit on the back of two heroes in Angel Delgado and Haralds Karlis.
The win keeps NIT hopes alive and provides the opportunity for one more regular season win that would boost the Hall's chances at avoiding the 8-9 first round game at the Big East Tournament, the winner of which will meet top-seed Villanova.
Delgado's double-double was the ninth of his freshman season, with most of his production coming in the second half while Haralds Karlis' 14 points tied a career high that he set during the 2012-13 season. Delgado scored 11 of Seton Hall's first 21 points in the second half.
Kevin Willard's halftime speech saved what's left of the season. Many will say the passion came too late, but Seton Hall was well on their way to losing this game and Angel Delgado had mentally checked out of it going into the locker room. The term "rock bottom" has been thrown around a lot this season, but Haralds Karlis' inspiring play combined with Willard's apparent halftime fury staved off a seventh-straight loss and a potentially ugly second period.
Isaiah Whitehead played a better game than last Saturday. He only scored eight points compared to 19, but took half the shots and had seven assists compared to just three (with the same number of turnovers: four). He still forced things at times, but improved in that respect and embraced the point guard role like he had during the non-conference season.
How similar was this game to the first between the Pirates and Jays? Not just the scoreline, which was 67-66 compared to 68-67, but in the way it finished. In the first meeting, Creighton led by two before Sterling Gibbs' three-pointer with a few seconds left, today they had a one-point advantage before Delgado's put-back. In the first game, James Milliken missed a jumper (an open three) to win the game after Gibbs' shot, while today he missed a mid-range jumper after Delgado's put-back.
On how he felt: "It's relief. I was so mad at halftime, this is the first time I've actually yelled at this group, it really is. It's the first time ive gotten angry at them and they've heard the other side of me. It's because we're have two of the best practices that we've had in a long time. Thursday we went for 3 hours, Friday we went for 2 and half, because they wanted to ... I had had it at halftime, I told them all ‘you guys are nuts, you played harder yesterday than youre doing now. You've got 20 minutes to figure it out' and I was proud of the way they came out."
On Angel Delgado's poor body language in first half: "Angel's emotional, he got scored on twice and he missed two shots, again when you've had a really tough go at it, you get down and when he gets down he gets down and he just kind of had to recharge his batteries."
"Everybody got addressed at halftime, it was a team, it wasn't just him [Angel]. Everybody looked like they were way too lethargic, way too passive, and he must have took the message."
On if team's second half defense down stretch was best in a while: "In a long while, since December. Maybe St. John's at home."
The team's post-game reaction: "We were very happy, it was a long time since we've won. In the locker room everybody just kind of gave everybody a hug, everybody took a deep breath."
On what got him the hot hand: "I don't know, but I've been waiting for a long time, it felt good."
On seizing the moment: "I was always ready. Actually, [former Seton Hall assistant] Steve Sauers called me the other day and he said just keep the momentum going, stay positive and work hard and your time might come, and I was ready for it."
On Karlis' game: "I love Haralds to death, man. That's a guy who never complains, he don't care if he plays 2 seconds, he's going to come out there and give it all he's got ... He stepped up, he does what seniors do. He's a true leader."
"Haralds is a guy that I've never heard complain about anything in practice, he does what hes supposed to do he's a first one in last one out type guy. Just for him to be able to perform like he did today, I'm so happy for that guy."
On Angel playing his best: "When he don't think too much and he just goes out there and plays, no one can stop him."
Describing the last sequence: "In a scramble like that, the refs don't know what to look at ... Next thing I know seen Haralds under the basket with the ball and he throws it to me and I'm about to throw it to Isaiah and I see him just running and I hear the buzzer go off."
On the win/winning basket: "That feels great, I went for everything. I trust my teammates, I think they can make it, but when I see the ball not going in I say let me get it and put it back."
The difference between his two halves: "The second half was way different because coach wake me up. He yell at me a little bit and wake me up. I'm so proud we have a coach like that, cause when you're down, he's not going down with you, he's still up and he's going to make you do the best in the game."