Following a disappointing outing against DePaul over the weekend, Myles Powell knew he would have to be better heading into Wednesday night’s game against Butler.
Powell did well to put his 4-13 shooting performance against DePaul in the rearview mirror, as he led all scorers with 31 points on 8-15 shooting from the field and a 13-15 showing at the free throw line and helped Seton Hall bounce back with a 76-75 win over the Bulldogs.
Quincy McKnight was the only other Seton Hall player to finish in double figures, but the Pirates combined to shoot 50 percent. With a solid performance from the field and Powell leading the way, Seton Hall garnered enough offense with 10 different players scoring to come away victorious despite a sluggish start.
“Most teams in this league, you don’t get past seven people playing,” McKnight said. “For us to have 10 guys play in the first half, it just shows you how deep we can go into our bench. Everybody is ready at any time. That lets the league know that we have seven, eight deep on the bench ready to go. Everybody is ready to step into the game and everybody is game ready.”
Powell was not the only one who had to step up following the loss to DePaul, as Seton Hall had some work to do on the defensive end as well. The Pirates allowed the Blue Demons to shoot 55 percent from the field 43 percent from three and a repeat performance would likely result in a second straight Big East loss after a 2-0 start to the conference slate.
With that in mind, the Pirates flipped the script and limited Butler to 38 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc, although the Bulldogs turned it on offensively in the second half to score 50 points, shoot 46 percent from the field and 15-17 at the charity stripe.
Slowing down Kamar Baldwin was the key in limiting Butler’s offensive attack. After hitting the dagger against Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament last season, the Pirates keyed in on the junior guard this time around and used McKnight, along with a handful of other defenders to force him to shoot 10-26 and 1-7 from three.
“We made him take a lot of tough twos, a lot of tough pull-up threes,” McKnight said. “Down the stretch, he tried to size me up a little bit. He tried to size a couple of us up a couple of times. You gotta make him pull up off the dribble, the three ball isn’t the best shot in college basketball. With a guy like that, all you gotta do is make him take tough shots. He’s a good player. It was a tough test. I enjoyed this one today.”
“We knew Baldwin, that’s a special young player that everybody is watching, he does it all for them,” coach Kevin Willard said. “We knew he was going to get his, but we just wanted to limit everyone else’s and make sure they weren’t hurting us from the three point line.”
Wednesday night’s win also served as Darnell Brodie’s coming out party, as the freshman big man took advantage of increased playing time and turned in a career performance. With Romaro Gill sidelined due to an ankle injury, Brodie, who entered the evening with only 12 minutes played so far this season, turned in three points, six rebounds and a blocked shot in 19 minutes of action.
“Brodie hasn’t played in who knows how many games and he stepped right in and made an impact just like Ro did against Maryland,” McKnight said.
“I told Darnell after the DePaul game, I said ‘Darnell, we didn’t practice well when we were out in Chicago’,” Willard said. “We had two good practices this week and Darnell had practiced great. I said ‘Darnell, you have to go out and throw your body around against [Joey] Brunk.’ Darnell has such a great attitude. He brings it everyday at practice. He’s had a great attitude and it’s been tough for him not to play. He said he was ready and he played phenomenal.”
For the fourth consecutive game, Seton Hall got off to a slow start, as the Pirates were hindered by careless play on the offensive end. Five turnovers in five minutes of action allowed Butler to jump out to a quick 7-2 lead before the under-16 timeout.
From there, Seton Hall settled in and worked to get into a rhythm. Butler held a slim lead at the under-12 timeout, but the Pirates jumped out to a 10-9 lead soon after that thanks to a floater from Quincy McKnight and never looked back. Despite some close calls late in the game, Seton Hall held the lead for the remainder of the night and led for 30:55 total minutes of action.
By halftime, the Pirates had built up a 34-25 lead, but nearly succumbed to early second-half struggles. Seton Hall opened the half with a statement dunk from McKnight, but the Pirates tailed off from there and Butler worked its way back into the game.
Seton Hall held multiple double-digit leads in the second half, but Butler refused to go away. With the under-four timeout approaching, the Bulldogs only trailed by four and had chances to either tie the game or take the lead on a handful of possessions. Butler did itself in down the stretch by repeatedly putting Seton Hall on the free throw line. The Pirates shot 37 free throws on the night and although they only shot 62 percent from the charity stripe, the likes of Powell, McKnight and Sandro Mamukelashvili stepped up and knocked down shots when Seton Hall needed it the most.
“The foul line was important,” Butler coach Lavall Jordan said. “They shot 37 free throws. We have to be able to defend them without fouling and keep them off the line. There were multiple possessions where we fouled them late in the clock.”
Following a three from Henry Baddley to cut Seton Hall’s lead to 72-70, Butler still had a chance with 21.2 seconds remaining. With Quincy McKnight inbounding to Shavar Reynolds coming out of a timeout, Seton Hall executed the play Willard drew up to perfection. As the ball never hit the floor, Myles Cale hit a wide open Mamukelashvili, who drove baseline and converted a layup to score what would go down as the game-winning points.
“We ran that play three or four times last year, so Sandro knew what he was doing, Myles Cale knew what he was doing, but this was the first time having Q out there and Shavar,” Willard said. “It’s a simple play and it’s designed to get the ball back into Myles’ hands, but it’s also designed to take a little time off the clock so they can’t foul right away. It was good to attack and get a layup.”
“We believe in each other, so it doesn’t matter who has the ball,” Powell said. “We weren’t trying to get fouled at the end of the game trying to run some more clock out. We believed in our teammates, we passed the ball, passed the ball, passed the ball, Sandro got to the basket in one dribble and that was that.”
With the win, Seton Hall improves to 12-4 overall and 3-1 in Big East play. Arguably its toughest challenge to date comes on Jan. 12, as the Pirates travel to Milwaukee to take on No. 21 Marquette. The Golden Eagles feature star point guard Markus Howard, who scored 53 points in an overtime victory against Creighton just prior to tipoff at the Prudential Center on Wednesday evening.
“I don’t think you’re ever really excited to go up against Markus Howard,” Willard said. “It’s like asking if you’re excited to go get a colonoscopy. It’s like playing against Shamorie [Ponds]. It’s going to be a good test. It’s going to be fun.”
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