(PHOTO COURTESY OF BOB DEA/DALY DOSE OF HOOPS)
Leading by double-digits is never safe. Why do some say that? Just ask Kevin Willard and his Seton Hall Pirates (9-5, 6-2), who came away with the victory over the DePaul Blue Demons (1-3, 0-3) by a score of 76-68 in Chicago on Saturday afternoon.
The score may seem like it was a pretty convincing win, but when the Pirates were leading by 21, it's warranted to wonder, what happened potentially down the stretch?
The Pirates went nearly eight and a half minutes without a field goal, late in the second half. During the aforementioned second half, Seton Hall converted 19-of-22 from the free-throw line, and made 16 straight attempts, with Jared Rhoden putting the icing on the cake with the final pair from the stripe. During the eight minute run of just successful free throws for the Hall, the Blue Demons would put together an 11-1 run to narrow the lead to as little as just five.
Following a 36-point loss to the Creighton Blue Jays on Wednesday night in Omaha, the Pirates were poised to return to the hardwood and show the world that the embarrassing loss, is behind them.
Here are the five takeaways from the revitalizing victory for the veteran corp of Kevin Willard's Pirates:
1. Creighton? Don't remember that game:
Seton Hall ensured they'd have a short memory when it came to the horrendous showing in Omaha on Wednesday night, that saw it fall by more than 30-points. Jared Rhoden, Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili, and Tyrese Samuel all tallied double-digit points to bounce back and earn their sixth victory in conference play this season. Mamu and Rhoden both were on the hardwood for a team-high 35 minutes each.
2. Free Throws wins you games:
You're right. It sure does. As we mentioned above, the Pirates went eight and a half minutes without making a single basket from the field. In the final two minutes, the Pirates sunk 10-of-10 from the charity stripe. Against Xavier on the previous road trip, the Pirates went 14-for-14. Inside the Prudential Center against Butler two games ago, Seton Hall converted 17-of-20. Just a few days ago after that win, Kevin Willard was exuberant with the team's free-throw efforts, as was Rhoden, who said they've been putting in more time following practice at said stripe.
3. Cheers Kevin Willard!
Seton Hall Head Coach Kevin Willard becomes the 11th coach in the Big East to achieve triple digit victories in the regular season as well as the tournament. He joins Rollie Massimino, Rick Pitino, Jamie Dixon, Lou Carnesecca, John Thompson III, Mike Brey, John Thompson, Jay Wright, Jim Calhoun, and Jim Boeheim.
4. Another FULL team effort:
We recapped the game against Xavier a couple of weeks ago, where it was a full team effort, and included full veteran leadership as well. Mind you, the contest against Xavier, was inside Cintas Center, which is deemed one of the hardest arenas to play in within the BIG EAST. By the numbers, Seton Hall had four players in double digit scoring figures, and every player to see the floor, scored at least a basket. Jahari Long was the lone exception, who was a perfect four-of-four from the free-throw line.
5. No Bryce Aiken? No Problem:
In the last contest against Creighton, graduate transfer Bryce Aiken left the game with an ankle issue. Yes, the same one that he injured earlier this season, and the one that he injured back at Harvard in the Ivy League. From point #4, a full team effort without Aiken. A win is a win, but as Kevin Willard eluded to earlier this week, he does not know how long Bryce Aiken will be out for.
Seton Hall head back to New Jersey and welcome Xavier to Walsh Gymnasium for a 3:30 p.m. opening tip off. The contest can be seen on CBS Sports Network. According to the Seton Hall Record Book, the Pirates are 10-23 inside Walsh Gymnasium during BIG EAST conference game competition. The Pirates hold a 425-142 record on its campus.