Seton Hall’s final non-conference game of the regular season did not have its shortage of drama. With two ejections occurring just before halftime, including Seton Hall’s Myles Powell and Manhattan’s Rich Williams, the Pirates found themselves without one of their starters for the rest of the game.
While the clash occurred when No. 23 Seton Hall held a 22-point lead, the Pirates went on to defeat the Manhattan Jaspers 74-62 in a matinee matchup Saturday.
Before his ejection for a swipe on Manhattan’s Zane Waterman, Powell was putting up one of the best performances on the court. He left with a team-high 13 points, four assists and two steals. A sequence where he followed up a three-pointer with a steal and dunk drew the most noise from the crowd – until the game started to get chippy.
Since Powell was ejected for a flagrant-two foul and not for fighting, he will not be suspended heading into Big East play.
Also receiving punishment for the skirmish were Angel Delgado and Waterman, who both received technical fouls for shoving under the basket.
The sequence puts a cap on a hectic week for Seton Hall that included the near-exit of Jordan Walker and the suspension of Ismael Sanogo. Coach Kevin Willard said what has transpired will not exactly allow him to have a merry Christmas.
“It was a tough week, I’m not a happy camper,” Willard said. “You put the time and effort and energy and you hope you’re guiding men the right way, and then when it goes off the rails it’s like getting stabbed in the heart a little bit, to be honest with you.”
With Sanogo already out of the game due to a team suspension as Willard is reevaluating the situation after Christmas, the coach found himself down another man with Powell out. Myles Cale took Powell’s place to start the second half, and the three starting seniors stepped up the most to make up for Powell’s lost production. In the end, all five starters reached double-digits in scoring.
Delgado recorded the 59th double-double of his career early in the second half, finishing the game with 15 points and 18 rebounds. Desi Rodriguez, meanwhile, recorded 13 points and led the team in assists with five. Nzei had a strong starting performance as well, recording 10 points and five rebounds for his second straight game in double figures.
Meanwhile, Carrington continued his tear from three, making two of his four shots from deep.
As for the team’s thoughts on Powell’s ejection, both Delgado and Willard appreciated that Powell stood up for his teammates.
“Myles every single day tells me he got my back,” Delgado said. “And I tell him that every single day. Myles is like my little brother, I protect him and he protects me all the time too.”
Walker also saw some time on the court today after his near-departure from the team earlier in the week and his return drew applause from the crowd. He struggled a bit in his first game in about a month, drawing four fouls and recording two turnovers and two points in his 16 minutes.
The Pirates used the first half to make their mark on offense, recording 49 points to Manhattan’s 27 and shooting 52 percent. While the production took a dip in the second half, the Pirates held an advantage in the paint all game, putting up a 38-22 edge in points in the paint along with 41-26 on the boards.
While Seton Hall struggled with turning the ball over, giving it away 19 times, the Pirates forced Manhattan to turn it over 21 times and scored 25 points off them. That was a key in the Pirates’ 13-0 run in the first half and holding Manhattan to shooting 41 percent from the field.
“I think our first half defense has been phenomenal, we just have to keep our focus in the second half a little bit,” Willard said. “But I like where our defensive mindset is. I think we’re one of the best defensive teams in the country.
After defeating Manhattan, Seton Hall holds an 11-2 record heading into Big East play. The team’s first conference test comes against Creighton on Thursday, Dec. 28 at 6:30 p.m. as Seton Hall continues its four-game home stand.
The Pirates understand that conference play is a different monster, and after a tested non-conference schedule, the veterans anticipate what it will take to be successful going forward.
“We’re in a really good position right now,” Delgado said. “We got a lot of work to do. I’m trying to tell coach we got to practice every single day. Come back from Christmas and practice, and be ready for Creighton, because there are no days off. We got to be ready, I want to win every single game.”
Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @eswint22.