In a rough first half where Seton Hall had a tough time finding its shot and defending the paint at Madison Square Garden, it was free throws that kept SHU in the game.
Turning a past weakness into a strength on Monday night, and powering through the second half, the Pirates were able to beat No. 16 and previously undefeated South Carolina, 67-64 at the Under Armour Reunion. It was Seton Hall’s fourth-straight win over an AP Top 25 team.
The Pirates were never able to find their rhythm in the first half, going on long droughts and turning the ball over 13 times.
In the second half, cutting back on giveaways that was key to the Hall’s success.
“We didn’t turn it over, we only had four turnovers in the second half, which was huge,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “We made them play a half-court game.”
Seton Hall played well out of timeouts, encapsulated by a dunking Desi Rodriguez on an in-bounds in the second half that led the Pirates on a go-ahead run that also featured a Carrington three, a SHU steal, free throws, a sweet dish from Angel Delgado to Mike Nzei and a Myles Powell and-one.
The Pirates were alive.
“I just think we were still a little bit kind of groggy, to be honest with you,” Willard said on the team’s trip back from Hawaii. “It’s just a matter of waking up and getting our energy going. I thought they played with a lot better energy in the second half.”
After going 1-8 in the first half, Carrington stepped up in the second, getting the ball to drop as he remained aggressive on both sides of the floor.
Seton Hall was shy from three throughout the game, going 3-12 from the arc. Even with South Carolina’s strong front-court, the Pirates insisted on heading to the paint throughout the game.
“After a while we said, ‘Screw it, and just drive,’” Willard said. “They take you out of your offense extremely well and we just really wanted to space the court a little bit on them.”
The effort was not always successful, as Seton Hall put up just six points in the paint to South Carolina’s 22 in the first half. In the second half, the Hall stepped up its paint defense and offense, allowing just six points in the paint and scoring 22 of its own.
The game got scary for the Pirates with under six minutes left, going on a four-minute drought. Double-double man Delgado put a stop to that, though, with a rebound and a layup.
The game came down to the final shot, where a play was drawn for Rodriguez in the final seconds with the game tied. He was fresh after sitting out due to foul trouble.
“Coach told me to take it out and look for Desi coming off the baseline,” Carrington said. “I just let him go. I got confidence in these guys.”
Rodriguez made the layup, Powell followed up with a free throw and South Carolina almost forced overtime with a half-court heave that went in and out. The play gave the Pirates a scare, but the bolled rolled off the rim.
— Seton Hall MBB (@SetonHallMBB) December 13, 2016
The play for Rodriguez was by design.
“It’s not a democracy in timeouts,” Willard said with a smile when asked what was said in the huddle prior to the game-winner. “It’s definitely a dictatorship. There’s times they get to say things, but not with 10 seconds left after we just gave up a four-point lead.”
Carrington led the team with 21 points, while Ismael Sanogo added 12 rebounds. Rodriguez and Powell added 16 and 11 points respectively. Delgado finished with 13 in the scoring and 12 on the glass.
Next up, Seton Hall (8-2) takes on Delaware (5-4) on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 6 p.m. to try and extend its win streak to five games.
Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @eswint22.