Romaro Gill’s career night powered Seton Hall to a 78-62 drubbing of Georgetown to top the Big East standings on a feisty Friday night at the Rock.
Myles Powell, the conference’s second-leading scorer at 21.7 points per game, started 0-for-4 and found himself on the bench for much of the first half. “He’s not back to where he’ll be in a couple weeks,” Kevin Willard said postgame, but the supporting cast carried the load in front of a sold-out Prudential Center crowd.
The Hoyas jumped to an early lead, but it wouldn’t last as a three-point barrage from Myles Cale and Jared Rhoden highlighted an early 13-2 run for the Hall. The burst would prove a sign of good things to come for the Hall.
Cale also drew the night’s toughest defensive assignment, taking on Mac McClung in the Hoya guard’s return from an eye injury. Cale had turned a corner against DePaul after struggling early in the season, and Friday’s performance confirmed it. The Delaware native lit up the scoreboard from deep at long last, with five three-pointers in the first half.
“He’s stayed positive, he’s put up with me,” Willard said of Cale, who has struggled shooting the ball this year and has been working relentlessly on tweaking his shot. “We’ve been grinding this since early December… It sounds like a small adjustment, but it’s like changing your golf swing.”
McClung found himself frustrated enough by the defense that he took off his protective goggles after being locked up by the Hall early on. Once unburdened, McClung grew into the game and led the Hoyas with 20 points. But the guard still found himself frustrated often and tempers flared late on.
The Pirates pulled away with both Powell and Gill – who still finished with a career-high 17 – on the bench due to foul trouble late in the first half. Cale led all scorers with 15 in the opening frame as the Pirates took a 41-24 lead into the break, but another injury scare struck Pirate nation on the stroke of halftime.
Late on, Ike Obiagu collapsed to the floor after being fouled by a Georgetown defender under the basket. The center walked into the locker room under his own power after receiving treatment and was back on the floor in the second half.
Georgetown cut the lead to 12 with a pair of quick buckets out of the break and hung around for long enough to make things mildly uncomfortable. The Pirates briefly dragged the lead out to 20, but once again the Hoyas responded. An angry Willard took a timeout with 8:19 to play, up 61-50 and hoping to stamp out any late drama.
Whatever Willard said to Powell during that timeout lit a fire under South Orange’s resident all-American. He buried his first two triples of the night – the second a heat check – after starting just 3-of-14 from the field, sparking a 10-0 run and wild celebrations from the home fans. In the blink of an eye, Powell had put the game out of reach. The senior from Trenton finished with 15.
Regardless of the score, you just can’t take your eyes off the extremely competitive Big East. McClung and McKnight exchanged words with the Hall up 19 and under four minutes to go, with “Q” pointing to the scoreboard. McClung wasn’t done talking, though, and the ensuing melee resulted in two technical fouls and five players getting ejected for leaving the bench area – two for the Hall and three for Georgetown.
The remaining three minutes passed with minimal drama as the clock wound down on a fourth straight victory for the surging Pirates.
Seton Hall will be back in action Wednesday night in Cincinnati, taking on Xavier. The Musketeers will try to rebound from an opening loss to no. 10 Villanova against St. John’s before their Jan. 8 tilt with the Hall.
Kyle Beck can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @notkylebeck.