Friday night was a big night in Newark, as the most anticipated Garden State Hardwood Classic in some time was set to go down between rivals Seton Hall and Rutgers. In front of an ecstatic crowd of over 10,000 fans at the Prudential Center, the Pirates fended off the Scarlet Knights 72-61.
The game started out rather slowly in the first half for both teams, particularity for Seton Hall offensively. With 5:44 left in the first half and the score tied at 21, the Pirates underwent almost a five minute drought offensively. That drought finally concluded on a Khadeen Carrington jump shot with just 46 seconds left in the second half. In the meantime, Rutgers took a 32-23 lead into the locker room due to very strong interior defense as well as the play of Corey Sanders and Nigel Johnson.
The second half was a different story, as the Pirate offense that was held to just 24 percent in the first half woke up. On defense, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo limited Rutgers’ second chances on the glass.
Fueled by Delgado and strong guard play, the Pirates pulled away in the second half. The Scarlet Knights’ foul trouble allowed for Angel to dominate the paint, while Carrington, Myles Powell and Desi Rodriguez began to hit shots from the perimeter.
With 2:21 remaining in the game, and Seton Hall leading 59-55, Madison Jones hit a straight away 3-point jumper to put the game away for good.
Delgado was named Garden State Hardwood Classic MVP, registering his eighth double-double on the season with 19 points and 16 rebounds.
Seton Hall improves to 10-2 on the season with their first Big East matchup coming up against ninth-ranked Creighton in Omaha next Wednesday. Rutgers meanwhile falls to 11-2, with their first Big Ten game next Tuesday night on the road against 14th-ranked Wisconsin.
What we learned
This Rivalry Is Back
The past two seasons it’s been all Seton Hall, as they beat Rutgers by an average of 28 points. This game was much closer than the final 11-point margin showed. The Scarlet Knights have great talent in guards Sanders and Johnson. Their defense gave the Pirates fits throughout the whole first half, forcing them to throw up many unbalanced shots and denied easy drives to the basket. Steve Pikiell seems to be the head coach Rutgers has been waiting for, and Kevin Willard already has Seton Hall improving every season. This rivalry is great for New Jersey basketball.
The nine-point deficit the Pirates faced was likely due to the limited output from Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington. Delgado was able to go on a tear in the second half, scoring 17 points, while Carrington finished with 20 and Rodriguez 13. Seton Hall is 8-0 on the season when these three all score in double figures so the numbers speak for themselves: When these three players are effective, Seton Hall is very difficult to stop.
Depth is still a concern for The Hall, as the four players who came off of the bench only two scored, combining for nine points. With conference play starting, bench production will be a must, so other Pirates have got to step up if they want to chunk together victories.