After falling to a desperate Xavier team to suffer its first Big East loss of the season last weekend, Seton Hall came out firing on all cylinders and held on at the end to secure a 78-71 win over Georgetown.
Undoubtedly, Kevin Willard has to be thrilled with his team’s electric start in the nation’s capital. For a team notoriously slow out of the gate, the Pirates started the game on a 16-0 run behind four hits from beyond the arc – two by Myles Powell and two by Jared Rhoden.
This is exactly the type of response that you want from a team that was embarrassed out of the gate on its home turf. Instead of falling into a shell heading into a road swing which includes a trip to Villanova on Saturday, the Pirates dominated the opposition in the same way which was done to them.
Perhaps part of the switch up comes from where Willard decided to change his starting five – electing to use Sandro Mamukelashvili over Myles Cale with Romaro Gill, Quincy McKnight, Powell and Jared Rhoden.
Mamukelashvili comes in after playing five and 17 minutes respectively in his first two games after injury, and he finished with 32 minutes overall. He chipped in eight points in that time, too and began to look much more like his normal self after nearly two months off the court.
Also in terms of injuries, McKnight looked no worse for wear after a scary fall near the latter portion of the game against the Musketeers. The Seton Hall show certainly revolves around Powell, who had 21 points in the first half and 34 by the end, but Willard and his team rely on McKnight too much to understate his importance. Even if not the leading scorer on most nights, McKnight gets the hard assignments on the more important end of the floor and does it to a tee.
It certainly helped Seton Hall’s case to have McKnight in throughout the game, especially when he does not have to pester Mac McClung for the entirety of the affair. However, McKnight was not at his true self after picking up his fourth foul with just over 17 minutes remaining in the contest. This is the second time in as many weeks that McKnight has gotten deep into foul trouble, and it shifts the tone for the Pirates with their floor general and best defender on the bench.
Things certainly would have looked different with McClung in the lineup and matchups switched around, but Seton Hall has to be commended regardless for starting hot against a team with a lesser pedigree than them. The Pirates, even if not by an analytical stat or measure, have a tendency to play down to opponents. This time, the case was different through, with Powell and company showing energy, passion and efficiency from the get-go.
As the first half wore on, that effect slightly wore off. Georgetown, after starting down by nearly 20, chipped away at the lead to make it a six-point lead near the break before the Pirates went into the break up by 10.
Credit must be given where credit is due for Patrick Ewing’s squad, but the Pirates, as a No. 12 team in the country currently and the potential to go exponentially higher in March, need to be better in closing out games of this nature. Into the second half, the Hoyas cut the lead to just three points early on before Powell hit a three to calm his team down and regain a two-possession lead.
Although Georgetown does not possess the quality of defenders that the rest of the Big East has, Powell’s overall performance is more than encouraging moving forward. After a few games with a visibly frustrated superstar on the floor, Powell was able to regain his swagger, including a 4-for-13 performance from beyond the arc.
With only nine points in the second half, though, it was a reversal from the usual performance from Powell. Usually heating up in the second half, he stayed relatively quiet with nine points through the under-four timeout.
Heading into Villanova on Saturday, Seton Hall will need first-half Powell to emerge once again in order to capture a victory. The strength of competition only goes up from here and Seton Hall will need Powell to be his best in order to keep ascending.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @KevinKopfHWH.