Pirates Beat Creighton to Begin Conference PlayDate: December 28, 2017
(Photo: SHU Athletics)
By: Bob Towey
Seton Hall men's basketball came out of its holiday break and entered conference play on Thursday night, defeating the 25th-ranked Creighton Bluejays 90-84 at Prudential Center.
The Pirates' victory marked the first time a ranked Pirates team hosted a ranked opponent while since Jan. 21, 2001, when then-18th ranked Seton Hall defeated No. 8 Syracuse at the Meadowlands.
Ismael Sanogo returned to the Pirates' lineup after serving a suspension for violating team and university rules. Michael Nzei started over Sanogo and shot 3-for-5 with seven points and 14 rebounds. Sanogo finished with three points over 15 minutes of play.
"It was a battle today," Nzei said. "Everybody did what [they] were supposed to do, and we came out with the win." Nzei also added that he thought the style of play the Pirates displayed will make a difference down the road in conference play.
Early in the first half, Marcus Foster, Creighton's standout guard and leading scorer, left the game, appearing to grab his right knee before being helped off court by his teammates. Foster returned to the floor towards the middle of the first half, but Creighton handled his absence well. Martin Krampelj paced the Bluejays with 11 points and five rebounds in the first half. Krampelj was especially dangerous around the net, and his persistent play allowed Creighton to hold a lead over the Hall for the entire half.
It seemed in the first half that every time Seton Hall scored a big bucket, Creighton had an answer. The Bluejays' ability to preserve a cushion over the Pirates, combined with defensive lapses by Seton Hall, allowed them to enter halftime with a 53-42 lead. According to Pirates head coach Kevin Willard, his team turned the tide by eliminating Creighton's chances down the middle.
"I really thought the biggest thing in the second half was I thought we did a little bit of a better job of just trying to get them to shoot jump shots," Willard said. "They just had too many easy layups in the first half that kind of were deflating. It deflates the crowd and it deflates you as a team."
The Pirates came out of the gates in the second half looking reenergized. Early in the half, the Pirates came within a point of tying the Bluejays, but critical buckets from Creighton's Krampelj and Thomas kept the Hall at bay.
Seton Hall did not break away from Creighton until late in the second half, when the team's persistence in keeping the game close finally paid off on a big play from Desi Rodriguez. With Creighton leading 76-75, Rodriguez gathered the ball on a turnover in the Pirates' end, raced up court, and finished the play with a layup to put the Hall ahead for the first time all game.
From then on, the Pirates never slowed down, and ended the game on a 7-0 scoring run. The end of the second half demonstrated a total reversal from the Pirates' poor defensive play and limited scoring in the first half. The Pirates also found more ways to distribute the ball, and 17 points from Powell and 18 from Delgado and Carrington followed Rodriguez's team-leading 23 points. Delgado fouled out of the game toward the end of the second half, but his offensive effort, putting up 18 points, combined with 14 rebounds for his 60th career double-double propelled the Hall to victory.
"We're coming for everybody's head right now," Delgado said. "We worked too much for this; we're going crazy in every [conference] game."
The Pirates continue their Big East play on New Year's Eve when they take on the St. John's Red Storm (10-3) at the Rock. Last season, Seton Hall defeated the Red Storm 86-73 at home, but fell to St. John's at Madison Square Garden 78-70.
Bob Towey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.