Gut-check time for Hall against Marquette

Kenneth Cook Staff/Photographer

The roller coaster ride that has been Big East play continues for the Seton Hall men’s basketball team on Saturday when the Pirates play host to Marquette.

It will have been 10 days since the two teams last met, when the Hall (15-7, 5-5) led by as many as 24 in the second half en route to an 80-70 victory, the program’s first ever at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The Pirates will be looking to bounce back offensively after a rough performance at DePaul in Tuesday’s 75-62 loss to the Blue Demons. In the final 15:30 of regulation, Kevin Willard’s team scored just one field goal. For an offense that was coming off its most explosive day of the season when the blue and white downed Xavier 90-82 on Saturday, Jan. 31, the 15-7 Pirates are a perplexing team, to say the least.

While the offense was stagnant on Tuesday in Rosemont, the same constant that has driven SHU throughout the season was at it again. Big East Player of the Year candidate Sterling Gibbs shot 6-for-14 from the field and 7-for-7 from the free-throw line, tallying 21 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists. He is the only player in the Big East that stands in the top five in both points (17.1 ppg) and assists (4.0) per game.

“He (Gibbs) is one of the best guards in the United States,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “I give Seton Hall a lot of credit. Their offense is just too tough to stop when it’s at its best.”

The Pirates tallied 23 assists in last week’s win over Marquette, compared to just five against DePaul.

Mobley (Seton Hall Athletics)

While Gibbs has been giving the Pirates something game in and game out, the same narrative continues to be that the Hall needs its complementary players to get going. Isaiah Whitehead, for starters, could be that guy. In two games since returning from a stress fracture injury in his foot, the freshman has tallied 33 points. While he has given Willard’s offense an added boost, the fifth-year head coach in South Orange looks beyond that as to how Whitehead benefits his team.

“There’s no doubt that he brings a scoring presence, but Isaiah’s defense is the best on our team,” Willard said. “He does so many intangibles right. We need that to continue.”

The Pirates need Jaren Sina to give Gibbs some help. The sophomore guard is second on the team with 32.2 minutes per game, and SHU is 10-0 when he scores at least two triples in a game. It’s clear that the offense becomes a different factor if Sina can find his stroke. He was held to just three points on Tuesday. Khadeen Carrington is also trying to find some rhythm to his game. The freshman guard put up six on DePaul on Tuesday, but has shot a combined 5-for-18 in his last two games.

Holding teams to just 25.9 percent shooting from beyond the three-point arc, which is the best mark in the nation, the Pirates will aim to contain a Marquette offense that puts up 6.5 triples per game and is fourth in the Big East at 35 percent. The Golden Eagles are coming off a blowout loss at Villanova.

Just as Gibbs drives the Hall, Matt Carlino is the conductor for the Golden Eagles. The senior is seventh in the conference with 14.8 points per contest and is shooting 42 percent from beyond the three-point arc. He is only behind Gibbs, who is shooting 45 percent, in the Big East.

The key for the Golden Eagles is going to be what they can do to make it a battle in the paint against a Seton Hall frontcourt that has been bumpy throughout conference play. Marquette (10-12, 2-8) allowed the Pirates to get whatever they wanted on the break in the two teams’ first match-up, which enabled SHU to score 13 three-pointers. But, the Golden Eagles held a 36-22 advantage in points in the paint. Depending on how Angel Delgado responds after a quiet five-point, seven-rebound performance at DePaul, that could give Marquette some leverage in Saturday’s contest at The Rock.

While only recording two conference wins thus far, Marquette has hung in throughout league play. In eight of the Golden Eagles nine Big East game, there has been a scoring margin of four points or less at some point in the final minute of regulation.

The Pirates are a perfect 6-0 on Saturdays this season, with five of those wins coming at The Rock.

John Fanta can be reached at john.fanta@student.shu.edu or on twitter @John_Fanta.

Author: John Fanta

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