In what was slated to be the Seton Hall men’s basketball team’s biggest challenge of the season so far, the Pirates delivered their best full-game performance of the season in Thursday night’s win over Marquette.
Sandro Mamukelashvili, Myles Cale, Shavar Reynolds and Jared Rhoden all hit double digits in scoring, with Mamukelashvili adding a career-high sevenassists to go with his 17points in a selfless offensive performance.
Harvard grad-transfer Bryce Aiken also made his return to the court for Seton Hall after spraining his ankle in the first game of the season against Louisville. He finished the night with three points, one assist and one rebound in 12 minutes.
Seton Hall opened the game with an intensified focus and hunger on either side of the court. Mamukelashvili, Cale and Rhoden scored the Hall’s first 15 points of the game and combined for 14–32shooting from the field on the night. It was just the third time this season that the three upperclassmen each broke the 10-point threshold and the fourth time that four Pirates hit double digits in scoring.
Mamukelashvili had an excellent night dragging defenders into the paint with his drives toward net and dishing passes to an open teammate out wide. Once again, Seton Hall’s opposition rarely had an answer to the dynamism of Mamukelashvili’s game aside from the occasional challenge Theo John posed under the rim.
Seton Hall held a lead over Marquette for over 17 minutes in the first half and, despite the Golden Eagles’ best attempts to claw themselves back into the game, the Pirates never relinquished their lead. Rhoden provided eight defensive rebounds on the night with Mamukelashvili, Cale and Reynolds all registering four defensive rebounds to go with a combined four steals.
While Marquette and Seton Hall were close in field goal percentage in the first half, the Pirates held their opponents to 2-7 shooting from three-point range. Ike Obiagu’s block around the six-minute mark epitomized the zoned in defensive performance the Pirates delivered as it ultimately forced a shot clock violation.
Three-point baskets would prove to be the deciding factor between both sides as well. Tyrese Samuel, Rhoden, Cale and Mamukelashvili each hit a three-point basket of their own throughout the second half, but Marquette’s DJ Carton would hit a long-range three-point shot to bring the score level at 61 with just under two minutes in the game left.
As the Pirates looked to give themselves breathing room, Mamukelashvili drove to the net once again before finding Reynolds out wide for a clutch three-point shot to regain the lead.
Marquette fouled the Pirates to slow the clock down, but Mamukelashvili and Reynolds scored all their free throws to see out a hard-fought 70-63 win for Seton Hall.
- We finally saw a game where Mamukelashvili, Cale, Rhoden and Reynolds all looked in sync with how Seton Hall wants to play offensively. As Mamukelashvili has adapted to his increased time on the ball and role as a ball carrier for the Pirates, the offense has begun looking much more cohesive than in the early weeks of December. Given Obiagu’s growth offensively, Aiken’s return from injury and Tray Jackson being cleared to play this season, Thursday’s win over Marquette may have only been the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the Pirates are capable of on offense.
- This was a statement win for Seton Hall. Starting 2-0 in the Big East is no easy task, and they did so against a red-hot Marquette team with wins over No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 9 Creighton on their resume already. Players across the roster have stepped up when needed to give the team a breakthrough going forward or an extra bit of bite in the backcourt. Given the congestion of games they faced early on this season, the ability to rely on bench players to provide good minutes will be an asset head coach Kevin Willard won’t take for granted going into the final slate of Big East games this month.