After a tough run of games that saw the Seton Hall men’s basketball team go winless in four games against No. 10 Villanova and No. 14 Creighton, the Pirates came into Wednesday’s home game against DePaul on a three-game winning streak.
Despite the Blue Demons coming into Wednesday’s game winless in four and without their two top scorers in Javon Freeman-Liberty and Charlie Moore, it was important for the Pirates not to fall prey to a trap game.
Coming out of the gates, it seemed that was exactly what was happening, as both teams came out sluggish and struggling to put anything through the hoop. After the Pirates opened the scoring with a Sandro Mamukelashvili three-pointer, the Blue Demons went on a 19-9 scoring run and went ahead with a score of 19-12.
Seton Hall began to bring it back and even took a one-point lead at one point, but DePaul pulled the game back in their favor by the closing minutes and put an exclamation point on a half where they shot 48.3% with a running three-pointer from the midcourt logo from Ray Salnave.
The Pirates shot a sorry 34.4% from the field in the first half, with Mamukelashvili as their leading scorer with 10 points, as they could not capitalize on 11 DePaul turnovers.
The Pirates turned their shooting around at the outset of the second half, but the Blue Demons remained as consistent as they were in the first. The teams traded blows for the first ten minutes until multiple DePaul turnovers and an 8-0 scoring run allowed for Seton hall to have their first multi-possession lead in the game at the 12-minute mark of the half.
During that scoring run, a made foul shot gave Mamukelashvili his 1,000th point in his Seton Hall career. He became the 45th Pirate in history to reach that plateau.
The Pirate defense stepped up in the final half, as the only Blue Demon they allowed to score in the final 11:43 was Paul Paulicap. On the other side of the ball, Mamukelashvili stood out with a double-double (25 points, 11 rebounds), and Jared Rhoden provided offensive cushioning as well (17 points).
Mamukelashvili etched himself into Seton Hall history books tonight and his best friend Myles Cale is on the brink of the same milestone. Their tight bond showed through their excitement for each other.
“We just want to leave our mark on Seton Hall history, and this is just the beginning,” Mamukelashvili said. “I feel like [Cale] will score 1,000 points and everything’s just going to fall into place.”
Despite the win, head coach Kevin Willard’s first point of emphasis was how his team needs to improve.
“I think first and foremost, winning is obviously the most important thing, especially this time of year,” Willard said. “We need to play a little bit better offensively. The last two games, Marquette and DePaul, we’ve let them dictate how we play offensively. Two very physical teams, two athletic teams, but we have to do a better job and we have to be more efficient on the offensive end.”
After two grind-it-out conference wins against Marquette and DePaul, Seton Hall travels to Washington D.C. to take on 10th place Georgetown on Saturday.
Brendan Balsamo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @brenbal.