The Seton Hall men’s basketball team started its season in convincing fashion on Nov. 6 in Walsh Gymnasium, defeating Wagner by a final score of 89-49.
The lowest amount of points Seton Hall gave up last year, 53 against NJIT on Nov. 18., was four points lower than what was given up on the night.
Kevin Willard started Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Quincy McKnight, Michael Nzei and Myles Powell, electing to leave Taurean Thompson on the bench to begin. Mamukelashvili came up with the first points of the season off the opening tipoff on a lob from McKnight. The two linked up once again a few minutes later when a series of quick passes ended up in a Nzei layup.
With Seton Hall up 9-4 just under four minutes in, though, Thompson and Anthony Nelson received their first taste of action, subbing in for Mamukelashvili and McKnight. Six minutes in, freshman Jared Rhoden also saw the first action of his Seton Hall career.
Nelson racked up the first points of his career from the line to extend Seton Hall’s lead to 18-6 early on. The rush was rightfully created off a vicious block by Thompson.
The Pirates were able to get Wagner into foul trouble early, reaching the one-plus-one less than 10 minutes in.
Through one half, the Pirates were up 43-27 and the team was doing exactly what Willard implored them to in the new system – create turnovers. Leading the way in points was Powell with 20, which was over double the next closest player for either team.
Powell would eventually end the night with 30 points in 24 minutes. He was especially impressed with how the team fared defensively, especially after holding Wagner nearly scoreless from beyond the arc in the second half.
“They came out in the second half and shot 2 for 16 from the three-point line,” Powell said. “Whenever you hold a team to only making two shots, it’s very good.
“Just following coach’s game plan. All week, like I said, he was stressing that this was a three-point team, they like to run. We were just trying to get back on defense and hold them at three. You saw coach was a little upset with us when they started hitting threes and then we came out and held them.”
Although Powell’s performance was impressive, Willard has high hopes for what the junior can accomplish this season.
“Just wait,” Willard said. “I’ve been saying he’s one of the best players in the country for a reason. As he gets a little bit in better shape, game shape, you’re going to see a lot of those. He’s a special player.”
Renee Nunez/Staff Photographer
The most surprising statistic from the initial 20 minutes was Willard’s point guard usage, as Nelson saw 13 minutes, whereas McKnight only saw 4. Shavar Reynolds ran the point for a few minutes as well. McKnight, though, did pick up two fouls early.
Willard was impressed with Reynolds in his 16 minutes of play, who filled up the box score and played stout defense.
“Shavar is not a charity case. He earned his scholarship,” Willard said. “The reason why Myles Powell is so good right now is because he has to go against Shavar every day in practice. Those two battle each other. Shavar is going to be a guy that’s on the court because I have a lot of confidence in how he can defend.”
Each of the 10 players that saw time in the first half, including Reynolds, came down with a rebound.
Willard returned to his starting lineup for the second half, which immediately resulted in a Cale three-point play. The play began a 7-0 run for the Pirates which forced Wagner to burn a timeout within the first two minutes.
“This team is a little bit more like [2015-16] where they can create opportunities and disrupt the other team’s offense,” Willard said.
The defensive adjustments are a teaching point for both Willard and his team, as they do not have the luxury of experience anymore. This was indicative of a first-half timeout called by Seton Hall, even after extending its lead off a Powell three-pointer.
“It was more or less trying to get the young guys to understand the importance of closing out the first half,” Willard continued. “I would always know that the older guys would do certain things and I would let them slide on certain things, but they never got to slide when they were freshmen and sophomores. Never. It’s kind of just getting back to that mentality of making sure these young guys understand certain situations.”
Midway through the second half, Seton Hall’s lead reached 30, as the team continued to overwhelm the Seahawks in every category. Most notably, the Pirates were stifling them defensively, including two blocks down low by Thompson and Romaro Gill.
With just over four minutes left, Darnell Brodie made his Seton Hall debut. Asiah Avent came in with two minutes left as well, completing a full-team effort for Seton Hall.
AJ Sumbry reached 12 points for Wagner, but other than him, no other opponent hit double figures in points.
Seton Hall will look to build on the momentum acquired in this game when the team plays Nebraska at the Gavitt Tipoff Games on Nov. 14. Before traveling to Nebraska, the Pirates will take on New Haven in an exhibition game at Walsh Gym on Nov. 9. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at student.shu.edu or on Twitter @KMKTNF.