On the night where Myles Powell was honored for being the fifth player in Seton Hall history to hit 2,000 career points, head coach Kevin Willard made a little history of his own by tying PJ Carlesimo for all-time Big East wins at 78.
Willard has been around long enough, from 2010 until present day, to know the drill. In usual coy fashion, he brushed off the record in favor of the fact that Carlesimo coached in an era with 16 Big East games rather than 18.
“I don’t deserve to be anywhere near coach Carlesimo,” Willard said. “He is the gold standard, he will always be the gold standard. He’s the one that put this program on the map. I’m just an asterisk below him.”
Despite a night of celebrating achievement, things were not perfect for Willard and his squad, who allowed Providence to stay in the game throughout. After trailing at halftime, the Pirates, who pick up their ninth straight win and improve to 7-0 in the Big East with the victory, were able to come back to defeat the Friars, 73-64.
In typical Seton Hall fashion, the first half was even for both teams with a teetering score as the half wound down. After a few early leads, the Friars were able to settle down on the back of a Cooley timeout and keep the game within a one-possession score before taking a lead of their own with 4:55 to play.
From there on out, the Pirates were able to close the half strong on a 6-0 run which was emphasized by a Romaro Gill dunk and Shavar Reynolds three in the final two possessions.
With David Duke face-guarding Myles Powell and limiting him to only three first-half points, Gill was instrumental to keeping Seton Hall in the game early. He finished the half with 13 points and three blocks before adding four points and five blocks in the second half as well. His 17 total points tie a career-high which a week ago at Butler.
“They were just throwing little different defenses at me, but I’m very proud of my guys,” Powell said. “They picked up the slack that I couldn’t pick up today. I wasn’t really scoring the ball but I feel like everybody did their part and we came out on top. I just feel like we’re just showing everyone across the country that it’s not just the Myles Powell show. I had three points at halftime and we were still winning, and I felt like we pretty much had control over this game the whole time.”
Willard also praised his big man for his play and his team’s depth in general. The mantra for the team from day one has been about the 10-deep rotation and it has been ever-present lately, especially in this matchup with Powell finishing with a quiet 14 points.
“It helps you look like you know what you’re doing on the offensive end, that’s for sure,” Willard said about his team’s depth scorers. “When the guard play has been as good as it has, and you have one guard as good as we have and as excellent as he is, I think the other guys are really understanding at times when it’s their turns. That’s something that a veteran team and a mature team does.”
Despite Gill’s efforts, though, Seton Hall lacked severely on the glass. The team was noticeably bodied on the offensive glass, with Providence bringing home 19 in that category which led in part to 21 second-chance points.
“[Providence] makes you grind,” Willard said. “They make you guard for a full 25 seconds. Us giving up 19 offensive rebounds hurt the fact that it limited the number of possessions that [Powell] had on the other end.”
The second half was much to the same tune for both teams, as Willard and Cooley battled it out with two hard-nosed teams down the stretch. As the game powered on, though, it was the Pirates who pulled away on the back of 10-4 run in the minutes leading up to the under-8 media timeout with the crowd at its feet. That made it 63-54, and Seton Hall never looked back from there.
Providence was able to claw back late on the hand of a few Seton Hall mistakes and a full-court trap, but it was too little too late on the road. The Friars were able to make it a five-point game with under 30 seconds to go but Seton Hall eventually closed it out at the charity stripe.
Looking ahead, the Pirates will face DePaul on Jan. 29 before Xavier visits on Feb. 1 to close out the homestand. Even with the familiarity of home, the Pirates will have a target on their backs heading into the rest of Big East play will have the opportunity to bring home a top-10 resume leaving.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @KevinKopfHWH.