The Seton Hall basketball team took home a 75-63 victory over Ole Miss on Sunday, thanks in part to the team’s ability to shut down All-SEC senior guard Stefan Moody.
“I think the big thing is just making it tough for Moody,” head coach Kevin Willard said when asked what the key was for Seton Hall.
Moody entered the contest averaging a conference-best 24.8 points per game, but finished just 4-for-13 from the floor with 13 points in Seton Hall’s fifth-place win in the Charleston Classic.
The Pirates ended their trip down south with two wins following their 80-77 whiff against Long Beach State. Sunday’s win makes SHU’s record against the Rebels 1-0, as this was the first ever meeting between the two programs.
With the score at 31-30 heading in to intermission, it seemed like it was going to be a long second half for Seton Hall if the team could not get any separation against Ole Miss. At halftime, the Pirates planned just how to accomplish that.
“The big thing was keeping them off the glass,” Willard said. “We were hurting ourselves by not being able to go back on offense. So ‘keep letting them take the shots they were taking and let’s get a rebound get out front and run,’” he told the team.
Run is just what the Pirates did, led by Isaiah Whitehead’s 17 points during his first appearance off the bench this season. The sophomore was two minutes late to the team bus and had to face the same punishment as anyone else on the roster, which is not starting.
He had his best shooting performance of his sophomore campaign and finished 6-for-13 from the floor, including 3-for-7 from downtown.
Despite Whitehead’s standout performance, Willard had a hard time choosing one player as his MVP of the trip.
“I’m really happy with the way Desi (Rodriguez) played,” he said. “I thought Ish (Sanogo) played great…I don’t really have MVPs. The team showed up and played great and I think the team is the MVP.”
With five starters combining for 45 points, 25 rebounds and ten assists, Willard’s assessment was correct. Delgado, the Dominican Republic native, fell just two points shy of what would have been his second double-double of the season. He had 11 points and eight rebounds.
What escapes the final stat sheet is the hustle Delgado, Sanogo and Michael Nzei displayed in containing Mississippi’s duo of Sebastian Saiz and Anthony Perez down in the paint to just nine rebounds between the two of them. The former came in averaging 11 boards per game, good for fifth in the Southeastern Conference.
With the hallways in the TD Arena filled with family members looking forward to a flight home to New Jersey, Willard had one final comment about his group’s performance.
“I’m very pleased with the way we bounced back, (after losing the first game of the tournament),” he said. “The big thing is after losing that first game you really have to buckle down. Bradley was a great test for us, it was a quick bounce-back, and then we just beat a very good basketball team.”
Next up for Seton Hall is a battle with Georgia at home. After beating Ole Miss, the Bulldogs will be test No. 2 from the SEC this season, and perhaps the largest one yet for the Pirates.
George Balekji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GeorgeBalekji