Every time the Seton Hall Pirates have suffered a letdown this season, they have responded with a statement win.
Last Saturday, Villanova dispatched the Pirates at home in front of their biggest crowd ever by a score of 92-70. In what was a must-win, the Pirates responded once again, this time with a win Wednesday, Feb. 22 over Xavier by a final score of 71-64. The win pushed the Pirates to 17-10 and gave them their second win of the do-or-die homestand.
In last week’s win over Creighton, Khadeen Carrington was the man who stepped up for the Pirates, scoring 41 points. This time around, Carrington struggled from the field, shooting 1-9 while scoring just five points. Instead, fellow junior Angel Delgado was the star for the Pirates, grabbing 13 boards and 25 points, notching his 22nd double-double of the season.
Fellow junior Desi Rodriguez was also crucial, scoring 22 points. Rodriguez also scored his 1,000th point for the Pirates, joining Carrington and Delgado as the Pirates’ active 1,000-point scorers.
Pirates coach Kevin Willard was happy to see his team step up again.
“This team has a lot of heart. We have had some tough losses this year and had another on Saturday,” Willard said. “But, we knew we had to win two of three.”
The first half saw the Pirates struggle out of the gate. As usual, they struggled to create ball movement and open shots, instead resorting to contested layups. The goal was clearly to get Delgado going early, as his teammates made an effort to get the big man his touches. Despite the struggles early on, the Pirates’ defense kept them in the game, down just one at the halftime break.
The second half saw more of the same physicality and defense from both sides. However just as they have all season, the Pirates found their groove on offense midway through the second half, allowing them to pull away in the late stages. Freshman Myles Powell was the difference-maker in the second half. It looked like it would be a quiet night for the sharpshooter until he hit two quick three-pointers late in the half, electrifying the Pirates and the arena.
Powell said that it was Willard’s words that helped him provide that spark.
“He always tells me he needs me to jump off the bunch and bring some energy,” Powell said.
Powell’s late-game triples were all the Pirates needed to pull away. Their defense and experience took over from there, allowing for a smooth finish.
The Pirates will go on the road to face DePaul this Saturday, Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. Expect the Pirates to take care of business as they make their push towards the NCAA Tournament.
Andrew Lombardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Anlombardo8.