After a disappointing loss to Louisville on Saturday, Seton Hall got back on track with a 77-57 victory over New Hampshire on Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.
Led by Quincy McKnight, Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili, and Myles Powell, Seton Hall got out in front of New Hampshire early and did not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the evening. McKnight led all scorers with 18 points, while Mamukelashvili had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, Cale added 14 and Powell chipped in 10.
Both Cale and McKnight came out of the gates on fire, as the duo combined for 12 of Seton Hall’s first 14 points with six each. Thanks to their efforts on the offensive end, the Pirates ripped off a 9-0 run and led 14-6 at the under-16 timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Seton Hall picked up where it left off as Powell and Mamukelashvili worked their way into the action. By the time the under-12 timeout rolled around, the Pirates were up by 14 thanks to a 19-5 run.
Jill Cancella / Staff Photographer
Midway through the half, both teams went cold offensively and the scoring came to an abrupt halt. Seton Hall went on a four-minute scoring drought and New Hampshire couldn’t find the bottom of the net over that same period of time, leading the score to be deadlocked at 24-15 for just around five minutes. Just before the under-four timeout, Seton Hall broke its scoring drought and found itself again on offense, taking a 31-19 lead into halftime.
“I really thought our defense was good in the first half, technically we only gave up 16 points, they hit a three late,” coach Kevin Willard said. “I thought we were active. I just think offensively, they started off in zone and then went to a real soft man-to-man with being tight on Myles [Powell] and the ball started to stick a little bit. But I thought our defense in the first half was pretty darn good.”
Coming out of the locker room, Seton Hall scored a quick bucket that prompted a New Hampshire 30 seconds into the half. From there, the momentum shifted and New Hampshire put together a string of successful offensive possessions to make it a 35-28 game and force a Seton Hall timeout at the 13:51 mark.
Seton Hall responded well after a stern talking to from Willard and the Pirates quickly got back on track, building a 45-33 lead by the under-12 timeout. Although the two teams remained separated by a distance on the scoreboard, New Hampshire hung around thanks to its energy and activity level on both ends of the floor. Six quick points from Jordan Reed and Chris Lester made it a single-digit game once again, but the Pirates responded and held a comfortable 55-41 lead with eight minutes remaining.
From there, Seton Hall took control and put New Hampshire in the rearview mirror. With four and a half minutes remaining, the Pirates held a 20-point lead thanks to strong play down low from Michael Nzei, who finished with 11 and five rebounds in 35 minutes of action.
Notably absent throughout the evening was Taurean Thompson, who did not dress due to a left ankle sprain suffered in practice on Monday. Willard expects Thompson to be healthy by the weekend, but his status remains up in the air. Anthony Nelson was also a non-factor in the first half, as Willard elected to give the freshman point guard a breather after he attended a funeral on Monday.
“Ant didn’t play the first half, he was at a funeral [yesterday] and he wasn’t going to play, but the more work he can get in the second half…he asked me to play in the second half,” Willard said.
With the win, Seton Hall improves to 5-3 on the season. It was also a milestone game for Willard, as he picked up his 200th career win. After the final horn sounded, Powell presented with a jersey commemorating the victory.
“I think the fact that Myles Powell gave it to me was pretty special,” Willard said. “I love that little man. It was nice.”
The focus now shifts to taking on one of the most talented teams in the country in Kentucky at Madison Square Garden on Saturday at noon. It is the latest test for a Seton Hall team that has faced many in non-conference play and one the Pirates are relishing in front of a national audience.
“Any time you’re playing against Kentucky, it’s a great opportunity for anybody,” McKnight said. “We’re going to come out and compete like we’ve been doing the past couple of games.”
“We’ve been waiting to play Kentucky since day one,” Mamukelashvili said. “As soon as we saw our schedule and we saw Kentucky, we were looking forward to that game. We can’t wait for the game, it’s going to be an amazing experience. We’re going to go out and try to get the W.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.