(Photo Credit to Bob Dea/Daly Dose of Hoops)
First halves haven't been too kind to the head coach Kevin Willard and his Seton Hall Pirates, who have been known for its slow starts that have caused them to lose to teams such as the Xavier Musketeers. Remember earlier this year in an 11 a.m. start? Yes. Something else to forget in the year 2020. Maybe the start from beginning to end is a trait to build off of as we close out this year? All of the Seton Hall community would agree.
It all worked out, as the Pirates (7-4, 4-1) handily took down the Musketeers (8-2, 1-2) inside Cintas Center by a score of 85-68 on Wednesday night in Cincinnati. Seton Hall would earn its second consecutive Big East victory, following their victory against Georgetown seven days ago.
Here are my five thoughts as we conclude 2020:
1. Sandro is Back on the Scoresheet!
Following a Festivus evening against Georgetown, that saw Mamukelashvili on the hardwood for only 25 minutes, and converting only one-of-five from the field, Sandro would power back to tally 18, and convert five-of-12. On the defensive end, Mamu also grabbed seven boards, and three steals. At the charity stripe, he would convert seven in as many opportunities.
2. Bryce Aiken: Missing Puzzle Piece
Struggling to put it all together following the Louisville injury on November 27, Harvard graduate transfer guard and All-BIG EAST preseason honorable mention Bryce Aiken provided the offensive spark that has been missing throughout the 2020-21 campaign for Kevin Willard and Seton Hall. Aiken was able to record 11 points in just 18 minutes on the floor.
3. Full Team Effort - Start to Finish
The Musketeers began the contest with a pair of fouls. Figuring the night would still be going on, was a bit premature. Why do we say that? 14-8 in favor of the home team was the score by the U16 media timeout. One little adjustment for Kevin Willard, turned the table for the Pirates, where they wouldn't look back. Seton Hall would conclude the first half on a 15-0 run, and put together another 12-0 run in the middle of the second half.
Reigning Big East Player of the Week Myles Cale, who cruised to a career night against Georgetown with 30 points, added another 10 to the scoresheet. "One of the reasons why we won 10 games in a row last season, when we inserted [Jared] into the starting lineup." said Willard on the postgame show.
Do not discredit any of the secondary cast of the Pirates, which includes Takal Molson and Tyrese Samuel, who both combined for 20 respectively, with 10 points each. Six different Pirates would tally double-digit points in this contest (Molson, Samuel, Mamukelashvili, Rhoden, Cale, Aiken)
Following the victory on FS1, Kevin Willard spoke about his team, "playing unselfishly throughout." Another reason for the Pirates to have won six out of their last seven games.
4. UConn's Getting all the Love. How about us?
There is no reason why the Seton Hall Pirates can't compete with the big dogs in the league, such as Villanova, Creighton, UConn, and Providence. The latter, whom the Pirates just fell to in overtime two games ago, just romped their upcoming opponent in Butler. Regardless of the lone loss to Providence, this team is primed to return to tonight's form against the aforementioned foursome, and show that they belong in that conversation.
BOLD STATEMENT - why can't this team be a Top 25 team the way the Pirates played tonight?
QUICK NOTE - Last time the Pirates played Butler? Sandro Mamukaleshvili sank home a game winning jumper in front of a raucous Prudential Center crowd, and in front of his father.
5. Record Book Rising and Winning = Smiles
Head Coach Kevin Willard has successfully leaped over current CBS Sports analyst and former Villanova head coach Steve Lappas (97), with 98 total victories within Big East play. Willard now sits comfortably in 11th all time on the respective league list. Next up at 10th place is legendary Villanova head coach Rollie Massimino (123). Sandro Mamukelashvili also moved up on the all-time scoring list, as he continues to march his way to 1,000, as he sits 62nd overall with Pete LaCorte.
Seton Hall returns home on Saturday afternoon, January 2, for a 4:30 p.m. start as they welcome Butler to the Prudential Center on FS1.