Coming off three straight wins against California, Bethune-Cookman, and Wagner, No. 25 Seton Hall had one final tune-up before a difficult three-game stretch to end their nonconference schedule.
Division II opponent Nyack College came into historic Walsh Gymnasium on Saturday ready to face their only Division I opponent all season, nevertheless a 25th ranked Pirates squad. Already 2-4 on the year, the Warriors looked for a program-defining win over Seton Hall.
Although a lopsided matchup on paper, the game opened fairly close, and Nyack even built up a six-point lead thanks to two straight threes from Jordan Rodriguez that silenced the 1,000 or so fans in Walsh Gym.
Once head coach Kevin Willard got his deep bench in the mix however, the Pirates took control.
Continuous open opportunities for Jamir Harris allowed him to get hot from deep, as he dropped 15 points in the first half on 5-8 shooting from three-point range. Tyrese Samuel was not far behind with 11 points and 5 rebounds, while Tray Jackson had 7 points with 3 assists, and Myles Cale returned to the floor with a 7-point first half performance.
Kadary Richmond had only 2 points in the half, but 5 assists from the point guard along with Jared Rhoden’s 4 points and 6 rebounds propelled Seton Hall to a 48-34 halftime lead.
Willard’s squad’s bench once again pushed them ahead of the competition, as the Pirate reserves outscored the Warriors’ 28-0.
The separation truly came in the second half, as the differences in depth, size, and athleticism of the two squads put Nyack away.
“There are some guys that need to get some time because they’re talented, and it’s helped us tremendously,” Willard said of his bench. “The only game it really didn’t help us as much was probably Ohio State, we didn’t really wear down Ohio State, but everyone else gets really worn down, especially [by] our 4s and 5s. You start with Ike [Obiagu] and [Alexis Yetna], our two big, physical guys and then you come in with [Tyrese Samuel] and [Tray Jackson] who are two athletic guys, they’re completely different.
Again, Bryce [Aiken] is our second-leading scorer and he wasn’t even here. I have a lot of confidence in all 9 guys that I play. Jamir [Harris] is a great guy coming off the bench because he could be instant offense. So, you have guys that come and shoot and guys that come and score; it’s a nice problem to have.”
The barrage down low continued and Samuel was the Pirates’ main outlet under the basket. The junior big man finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, good for his second double-double of the year, and Seton Hall’s second of the game as Rhoden finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Samuel was not the only Pirate to surpass 20 points, as Jackson finished with 21 points and Harris with 23. The two added onto the Pirate barrage from deep, as the team finished 13-26 from behind the line.
Cale, in his return from injury, saw 21 minutes on the floor, scoring 12 points on 3-5 shooting.
The senior said of his return, “It felt really good to be back, you know? It felt like a normal game. I practiced yesterday, so my teammates were with me, so they supported me on the way there and they supported me during the games. It felt really good, and I wasn’t really thinking about the injury a lot. It felt good.”
Despite the one-sided score, the Pirates still took some things away from this game.
“I feel like we’re taking away, like, this is like practice where we can work on our stuff, become better at executing our plays, our defense,” Samuel said after his career day. “It’s not like a practice game, but for us just to work on our stuff more than anything.”
Saturday’s tune-up against Nyack was just a precursor to the three-game gauntlet the Pirates have yet to endure at the end of their nonconference schedule. Seton Hall will face #7 Texas at Prudential Center on Thursday, followed by Rutgers in Newark and Iona at Madison Square Garden.
Brendan Balsamo can be reached at email@example.com.