Coming off the heels of two straight losses to Rhode Island and No. 21 Oregon, the Pirates came into the game desperately needing a victory. After coming out the gates sluggish and going down by as many as 19 points, Seton Hall fought off defensive woes and inconsistent free throws to beat Penn State 98-92 in overtime.
Once the ball was tipped, the Pirates looked outmatched. Looking lethargic, even the team’s leaders struggled to get back on transition defense and allowed the Nittany Lions to score easy points. This enabled Penn State to go on a 16-0 scoring run midway through the first half. At the largest deficit, the Pirates trailed by 19 at 31-12. However, Kevin Willard tapped into his best quality and adjusted despite his team’s poor play.
The Pirates evidently came into the second half with mor energy and polished off a 17-5 scoring run a minute into the second half. The defensive adjustments worked wonders as Jared Rhoden and Myles Cale had two steals each and Shavar Reynolds stood out with three. Seton Hall eventually took the lead with 14:55 remaining in regulation and from then on, the game was a tug-of-war.
Continuous scoring spurts by Penn State were quickly answered with the Pirates' own scoring runs and eventually led to Seton Hall in possession of the ball with 8.4 seconds to go at a tied game. The Pirates ran the ball down the court and found Cale in the corner, but his three-point effort bounced off the front of the rim and sent the game into overtime.
Penn State took the lead twice in overtime, but the Pirates responded quickly and eventually put on a clutch, game-sealing play that saw Reynolds hit a three-pointer with 45 seconds left. The Nittany Lions could not respond, and the Pirates came out with a six-point, 98-92 victory.
- Yes, the Pirates won this game, but their free throw shooting nearly gave them a 1-4 start to the season. Multiple moments where clutch free throws were needed but banked off the rim would have been crucial in giving Seton Hall a more commanding victory. Their free throw percentage was 65.7%, which is already sub-par, but does not tell the whole story. Most of their misses came in the second half when they were needed most, specifically from Ike Obiagu, Molson, and Cale. They pulled out the win despite this, but the team's productivity from the line is clearly an area in need of improvement.
- This offense runs through Sandro Mamukelashvili. With two double-doubles already on the year, he was averaging 18.8 points and 8.3 rebounds headed into Sunday’s matchup. He once again proved he is the offensive leader on the team, scoring a career-high 30 points on the day, including shooting 2-5 from three-point land. It seems like the offense could finally be finding their offensive identity after underutilizing Mamukelashvili in their last game and paying for it.
- After a rough start in his first four games, it seems Takal Molson is starting to find his footing within the team. Molson continued his positive defensive presence with two steals and giving great effort on loose balls. Despite his turnover numbers, he contributed offensively as well, with his first double-digit game in his Seton Hall career as he scored 12 points. If he can continue to positively progress, Molson can be a key piece for the Pirates this year.
- Shavar Reynolds continues to prove why he deserved his walk-on spot three years ago as he once again shined in his point guard role. Reynolds dished seven key assists throughout the course of the game and dropped 10 points, including the pivotal three-pointer with 45 seconds left in overtime. He also was a stand-out defensively with three steals. He continues to get exponentially better, and Tuesday’s matchup against Wagner will be a nice final tune-up for him before he and the Pirates head into Big East play on Dec. 11.
Brendan Balsamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @brenbal.