When the going gets tough, Gibbs gets going
Seton Hall Athletics
There is a fine line between those teams that get into college basketball’s Top 25 poll and those that are left out. The Seton Hall men’s basketball team is in the poll for the first time since 2012, but it wasn’t easy. The Pirates had to earn not one, but two wins over top-15 opponents, Villanova and St. John’s, in order to even crack the top-20.
On Saturday, the Hall was on the verge of dropping a second-straight road contest, which could have just as easily wiped the Pirates out of the poll. Keeping the Hall alive in the national spotlight was the same junior guard who put the program into it last week.
Sterling Gibbs was at it again on Saturday in the Pirates’ 68-67 victory over Creighton.
With seven seconds left inside a sold out Century Link Center in Omaha, Neb., Gibbs held the basketball to in-bound it right next to head coach Kevin Willard and the Pirates’ bench. He did just what he’s done in the blue and white before, taking the ball back after throwing it in, pulling up for a three-pointer, and draining it.
The role is nothing new for Gibbs, who has won the Big East Player of the Week award twice this season and is on his way to another conference honor on Monday. The Scotch Plains, NJ, product scored a combined 45 points and 12 assists in last week’s pair of wins, and shot 8-of-16 from the field with a 24-point performance on Saturday.
In the midst of a consensus top-15 recruiting class that has come to South Orange and has been part of a 13-3 start to the 2014-15 campaign, there is a junior veteran that has done anything but waver with plentiful young talent to play around. Gibbs has been at the center of the transition of Seton Hall’s program, after sitting out the 2012-13 season due to transfer regulations. Gibbs was the second-leading scorer on a 17-16 team that performed way below expectations, but the then-sophomore put the Pirates into the national spotlight with a game-winning buzzer beater for a 64-64 win over then No. 3 Villanova in the Big East Tournament last year.
Gibbs has answered the bell time and again, and while Isaiah Whitehead has been injured with a stress fracture in his right foot, the junior guard has lifted his play even more.
There’s no secret: as Gibbs goes, the Pirates go, and in just one shot, the star has 13-3 SHU remaining as the Big East Conference’s surprise of the season thus far.
With the loss, Creighton fell to 9-8 overall and 0-4 in the Big East. The Bluejays have lost five in a row for the first time since 1996-97, according to the Associated Press.
While Gibbs continues to anchor the backcourt, senior forward Brandon Mobley is the man that ignited the Pirates’ frontcourt on Saturday. The senior scored nine points, but more importantly brought down 13 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive glass.
The Hall shot 26 three’s for the second straight game, hitting nine of them. While the Pirates pulled out the win, Willard’s team has lived quite a bit from the perimeter.
Freshman guard Khadeen Carrington has emerged as a premier newcomer to the Big East. He knocked down two clutch free throws with 1:58 to play in the game to tie things up at 63.
The Pirates will host Butler on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in their lone game of the week. SHU is a perfect 8-0 at home this season.
John Fanta can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @John_Fanta.