Myles Powell went down injured early, but Romaro Gill’s massive second half propelled No. 12 Seton Hall past upset-minded Stony Brook, 74-57.
Powell was forced out of the game after just three minutes with what head coach Kevin Willard called a “pretty good ankle sprain.” The severity of the injury is uncertain – teammates said Powell was walking around and moving in the locker room, but Willard warned of a “prolonged” absence of “more than one or two games.”
That all but rules out the preseason All-American against No. 1 Michigan State, a crushing blow to a team that struggled to find its feet without Powell on the floor.
Junior forward Sandro Mamukelashvili opened the scoring and stayed hot early, scoring 8 of the Hall’s first 11 points. But Seton Hall went ice-cold after Powell left the game – not counting the Georgian, the Pirates shot just 7-for-26 in the first half while trying to tweak personnel groupings on the fly.
“I screwed us up more than anything in the first half with the rotations,” Willard said postgame.
Stony Brook did themselves no favors when the Pirates went cold, suffering more than six minutes without a basket and committing a slew of sloppy turnovers. Seton Hall was perhaps lucky to be down just two at halftime, drawing a smattering of boos from the Walsh Gymnasium crowd.
Losing at home to an unranked opponent, Powell-less, the Pirates needed a spark in the worst way. Shavar Reynolds finished a tough drive to give the Hall a 35-33 lead out of the half and Jared Rhoden’s tricky reverse on the next possession brought the crowd to its feet, forcing a Stony Brook timeout. Mamukelashvili put the Pirates up for good with 14 minutes to play.
Then Romaro Gill – all seven feet and two inches of him – stepped into the spotlight.
Gill took over down the stretch, flashing a soft touch with an unblockable post-hook jumper. The big man finished with ten points and ten rebounds, his first career double-double, and anchored the much-improved defense to prevent a comeback.
Last time out against Wagner, the Pirates struggled to execute on defense, conceding wide-open looks that kept the game close for longer than it should have been. And while Stony Brook still exploited a few defensive collapses, the Hall was much better defending as a unit Saturday.
Saturday’s second half proved the Pirates can adjust in the face of adversity, but Powell’s status will overshadow everything else in the buildup to Thursday’s blockbuster matchup against no. 1 Michigan State at the Prudential Center.
Kyle Beck can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @notkylebeck.