Seton Hall returned to the Prudential Center on Saturday after nearly a week off and showed some signs of rust at times, but did enough to come away with an 87-51 win over Florida A&M
The Pirates were heavy favorites and their stifling defensive effort showed why. Florida A&M shot a mere 29% from the field, 14% from three and at one point, endured a seven-minute scoring drought that Seton Hall used to its advantage to build a sizeable lead.
The Rattlers got on the board first, but not much went right for them from that point on. Seton Hall jumped out to a 19-9 lead by the under-12 timeout with contributions across the board, as Myles Cale, Romaro Gill, Anthony Nelson, Quincy McKnight, Myles Powell and Ike Obiagu all scored for the Pirates in the first eight minutes of action.
From there, Florida A&M’s scoring drought began and Seton Hall’s offensive onslaught continued. By the under-eight timeout, the Pirates led by 16 and by the under-four, held a 33-19 advantage before taking a 36-24 lead into halftime.
Despite its first half woes, Florida A&M came out of the locker room strong and cut it to single digits before a Powell three-pointer pushed Seton Hall’s lead back up to double digits. The Rattlers once again cut the Pirates’ lead to single-digits a couple of minutes later, but a Powell layup put Seton Hall back up by a double-digit margin.
Powell finished with 23 points, putting him two shy of overtaking Walter Dukes for No. 10 on Seton Hall’s all-time scoring list.
Florida A&M continued to hang throughout the opening portion of the second half due in large part to a stretch of Seton Hall struggles on offense and trailed only 47-38 with 13 minutes remaining in regulation. The Pirates endured a brief stretch of cold shooting and turnovers but eventually rounded back into form and put the Rattlers away.
“I thought we made some shots and got a little momentum going,” coach Kevin Willard said. “I thought Shavar Reynolds came in and gave us a really good boost of energy. We needed a little positive energy.”
With Florida A&M in the rearview mirror, Seton Hall’s focus shifts to No. 11 Oregon in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Ducks boast Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year Payton Pritchard and an imposing frontcourt that rivals Seton Hall’s in terms of size, strength and physicality.
“Our next two weeks are brutal,” Willard said. “The next three in the Atlantis and then at Iowa State and Rutgers and then home for Maryland. It’s a good opportunity either way. It’s a chance for us to see where we’re really at.”
-The center platoon was back in action with Romaro Gill starting over Ike Obiagu. Gill has been a gamechanger on the defensive end for Seton Hall so far this season, while Obiagu has mostly struggled to stay out of foul trouble. He didn’t foul much today, but if Obiagu continues to put himself in predicaments against top competition, it could result in Gill eventually taking over the starting spot full-time.
-Another impactful offensive performance for Quincy McKnight, as he finished with 14 points and five assists. Anthony Nelson is lauded as the offensive leader of Seton Hall’s point guard duo, but McKnight has done his fair share of scoring and facilitating so far this season.
“He has the ability to score,” Willard said. “He defers a little to Myles [Powell], which is fine. He has the ability to score. He needs to do it for us.”
-Kevin Willard used today to get Tyrese Samuel some extended run, which bodes well for the freshman moving forward. Games against low-major Division I opponents tend to be extremely helpful in a young player’s development.
“I think Tyrese is getting a little more comfortable out there,” Willard said. “I’m going to try and get him out there a little bit more with Myles [Powell]. He continues to be steady and get better and do the little things out there.”
Samuel has been solid for the Pirates in limited minutes, but still has work to do as any freshman does. Today was the latest step in his progression.
-Jared Rhoden was all over the place with 10 points, 12 rebounds and a +29 in the plus/minus column. Certainly an encouraging day for the sophomore heading into the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rhoden has a knack for rising to the occasion with his high-motor play, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see a big game or two from him in the Bahamas.
“Jared is slowly getting back to where he was before he got hurt in August,” Rhoden said. “He’s getting his bounce back. He still hasn’t shot the ball well, but he’s been shooting it well in practice. Jared’s getting close. He’s not where he was, but he’s close to being a big-time player for us.”
When he checked in at the under-16 in the second half, he helped turned the game around for Seton Hall. That’s the kind of impact he can have when he’s on his A-game.
-As usual, Anthony Nelson was comfortable taking the ball to the rim and either finishing strong, throwing up a lob or kicking it out to the perimeter. This is his strength and when he’s firing on cylinders with his facilitating, Seton Hall’s offense operates on a different level.
-It goes without saying that the Battle 4 Atlantis is a massive opportunity for Seton Hall to boost its NCAA Tournament resume. A win against No. 11 Oregon in the first round would likely result in a meeting with No. 8 Gonzaga. If everything falls in Seton Hall’s favor, that’s two matchups against Top 15 opponents with another one possible if it makes it to the finals.
It’s rare that a team gets so many cracks at elite competition and boosting their resume drastically so early in the season. Seton Hall needs to take advantage in the Bahamas and position itself well for Tournament seeding moving forward.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.