Fresh off an all-around dominant 93-49 win over Fairleigh Dickinson on Wednesday, the Pirates came back to Prudential Center on Sunday to square off with preseason Ivy League-favorite, Yale.
The Bulldogs came into Sunday’s matchup with a perfect 2-0 record thus far, with a 46-point win against DIII Vassar College and a 20-point win against UMass on Friday. After not having played since before COVID-19 lockdowns in March 2020, head coach James Jones is in the midst of another great start in his 22nd season at Yale.
If the Pirates started slow against FDU, the opposite is true for their play on Sunday. The Pirates immediately came out swinging with consecutive threes from Jamir Harris, riding that momentum the entire 20 minutes to a 45-22 halftime lead.
Kadary Richmond looked as good as he has as a Pirate, leading the squad with 9 points in the half, followed by 8 from both Yetna and Cale.
The offense had diversity, as 8 different Pirates found themselves on the scoresheet by the first buzzer thanks to a 51.5% field goal percentage and 41.7% from three-point range.
On the glass, Jared Rhoden led the way in his return from an ankle sprain suffered in practice, bringing in 5 rebounds for the team-high.
However, what really created the separation between the Pirates and Bulldogs was the Pirate defense. The length of Seton Hall’s team made penetration for Yale’s undersized offense extremely difficult, as head coach Kevin Willard’s team affected nearly every interior attempt from the visiting squad.
3 steals from Cale and 2 from Richmond allowed for multiple fast break scores for the Pirates, and Ike Obiagu’s 3 blocks continued his interior dominance after having 5 on Wednesday.
Although sloppier offensively in the second half sporting only a 41.9% field goal percentage and 25% from three-point range, their defense kept locking down the undersized Bulldog offense.
5 blocks and 12 steals (4 from Cale) as a team along with limiting Yale to a 24.2% field goal percentage and 13.3% from three-point range allowed a lackluster second half offensive effort to be enough to push the Pirates to a win.
The transfers proved their worth, as Yetna finished with 15 points, a game-high, followed by Richmond’s 13, Cale’s 11, and Aiken’s 9.
Aiken looks incredibly more confident and composed on the ball and is continuing to prove why Seton Hall fans should be glad he chose to use his extra year of eligibility. Add 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals to his point total, and the two-time All-Ivy League First Teamer is finally coming to form.
Another player coming to form is Tyrese Samuel. After a career performance on Wednesday, he did not have another double-double, but his 7 points, 9 rebounds, and defensive effort added a great deal to Sunday’s winning effort.
The highly anticipated return of Rhoden did not disappoint either, as an 8-point 10-rebound effort from the guard was integral to the team’s victory.
“To be honest, I just really wanted to get some good cardio in,” he said about his first appearance of the season. “I didn’t really care much to score or care much to do too much. I just wanted to not mess up.”
Rhoden did not want to interfere with the way his teammates have been playing, and he sang their praises.
“We’re just out here trying to make statements to everybody that we’re not anybody to play around with. We’re dogs and we’re going to play,” he said.
Willard also continually commended his team and their depth.
“This is kind of how I envisioned this team, especially when Myles Cale came back and Bryce [Aiken] came back,” he said. “You’re going to get the same amount of possessions and shots, it’s just the fact that there’s not so much pressure on anyone on the court at any time, and I think that’s the biggest difference with this team than probably all my teams… No one has to stress about playing great every night. They all know that, ‘Hey, if it’s not my night, someone’s there to pick me up.’”
He also went on to say that Rhoden will likely be on a minutes limit for their next game.
The Pirates now have one day off before one of their biggest challenges of the season: #6 Michigan in Ann Arbor. The rowdy Michigan faithful and a stacked roster filled with big, skilled players should make pulling out a win difficult, but many believe that this year’s team might be the deepest Seton Hall has had since their controversial loss to the Wolverines in the 1989 National Championship Game.
Either way, Willard and his squad have their work cut out for them before one of the biggest regular season games in the program's history.