After a tough three-game schedule over five days, the Seton Hall men’s basketball team finished off their non-conference schedule with a resounding win over Wagner. Despite Sandro Mamukelashvili being ejected from the game early in the second half, Jared Rhoden and Ike Obiagu combined for 42 points on the night to carry the team’s offensive load.
The tone was set early in the game for the Pirates as Obiagu slammed in the opening basket of the night off a dish from Shavar Reynolds. Obiagu would follow up the play with his first two free throws of the night, going two-for-two from the line and finishing the game with 12 made free throws from 15 attempts on the night. Seton Hall had their best performance from the line all season against Wagner, scoring 31 of their 37 attempted free throws.
It was a big performance from the Pirates’ big man, especially after Mamukelashvili and Wagner’s Elijah Ford were ejected from the game after a small scuffle at the beginning of the second half. Seton Hall visibly looked to find Obiagu more often down low and play off their 7-foot-2 center in the paint.
“We’ve been trying to get guys to look at him a little bit more and get him to play a little bigger,” Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said. “I thought he shot his free throws great. I’ve been trying to keep plays a little simpler with him, and I think Grant’s done a great job creating better angles with him off screens, rolls and ducking in.”
Obiagu finished the game with career-highs at 20 points and eight blocks and added three rebounds in the process. His eight blocks tied the single-game record for most blocks at the Prudential Center as well. After missing his three free throws against Penn State last time out on Sunday, the free throw exhibition he put on tonight could serve as a huge confidence boost.
“I loved it," Reynolds said "I’ve been telling Ike I think he has a lot more in the tank. Today, we saw a little bit of what he can do. I need him to get more rebounds though. I’m going to tell him about that later.”
Rhoden also had a strong night from the line, scoring eight of his 10 attempted free throws and shooting 6-for-9 from the field. This was his second consecutive home game with a double-double, scoring 22 points and collecting 11 rebounds while providing three blocks of his own to help the Pirates cruise to a 78-45 win over Wagner.
Seton Hall now have a two-day break before they open Big East play against St. John’s on Friday at the Prudential Center.
- This might be the performance that finally wakes Obiagu up offensively. There’s no question his size provides the team with a massive advantage over their opponents defensively, but the next step in his development is to provide a consistent offensive presence down low as well. Back-to-back double-digit performances in points gave glimpses of what that can mean for the Pirates, and it could mean Seton Hall have found another outlet to help replace Myles Powell’s points from last season.
- Both Rhoden and coach Willard have spoken about the junior forward’s need to keep his game simple and provide the extra energy the team needs without a crowd in the building. He did both of those again tonight as he did in their last home game against Iona, and he’ll have another opportunity to do so at home against St. John’s in three days. The long-term question for Rhoden is whether he can keep that energy during the tough away games and still provide offensively when Mamukelashvili is on the court with him.
- Seton Hall’s bench continues to provide energy on either side of the court when called upon. Takal Molson finished the game with nine points, a steal and a rebound while Tyrese Samuel finished with six points and six rebounds. Foul trouble is still a wrinkle that needs ironing out in Samuel’s game – especially having fouled out against Wagner – but his scoring versatility gives the Pirates an X-Factor off the bench in tight games.
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JustinSousa99.