BRING ON NOVA
In what Maurice Watson Jr., called his second best performance of the year, the Jays gained a resounding win over the Seton Hall Pirates to begin conference play.
This sheepishly hyped, oft overlooked affair betwixt one of the most highly touted defenses in conference against one of the nation’s most prolific offenses ended without a lot of fanfare before 18,000+ fans. There were a plethora of foul calls that stagnated the Bluejays’ ability to fly, yet their performance at the free throw stripe solidified the faithful’s fears of their ability to hit the gimme shots.
Led by Maurice Watson Jr., the Jays managed to keep turnovers to a minimum and maximize on the defensive end. Three players (Marcus Foster, Khyri Thomas, Maurice Watson Jr.) logged three steals a piece, forcing 18 turnovers overall, and pouring in 27 points off said turnovers.
There were moments where Seton Hall simply looked lost and unable to comprehend the task ahead of them on defense, leading to their 25 fouls on the evening. Overwhelmed on the defensive end, the Pirates were forced to rely on Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez to carry their scoring load.
Rodriguez, who has been a streaky and inconsistent shooter as of late, got hot early on, going 3-3 from beyond the arc in the first half. His dribble drive, normally a potent part of his play, was denied by the swarming guard play by the Jays. He continued on his roll of better-than-average shooting by scoring 15 points in the second half, mainly off of passes from the the post.
Angel Delgado, one of the best big men in the conference, managed to acquire a double-double - a feat that one has come to expect - yet he barely eclipsed 10 points and only managed 10 boards. Each time he touched the orange orb in the paint he was immediately swarmed by a double team. He was covered by either Cole Huff or Toby Hegner - both of whom did a phenomenal job denying an entry pass - and when he was able to get possession of the ball Justin Patton would leave his man and deny a good look at the basket.
Occasionally the ball would take a lucky bounce, yet more often than not it would softly rim out.
Sanogo, as good as he is defensively, wasn’t able to produce at all on the offensive end. He’d foul out at the 2:21 mark in the second half with zero points, 8 rebounds, and a lonely turnover.
In the end, it was the Rodriguez-Carrington show. They combined for 51 points on the night, shooting a stout 17-27 on the evening and were credited for keeping the game interesting past the 27 minute mark, which is something only UMKC, Ole Miss, and Oral Roberts were able to do this season.
Probably biased, please look away if you love The Hall
Lots of respect to Seton Hall.
So much respect.
Please stop reading this.
No seriously, don’t continue even if your masochistic tendencies are telling you to.
Are you gone?
Alright I’m assuming you’re gone.
Roaring. Clapping. Sometimes sitting on their previously clapping hands when their hands needed to be clapping.
Regardless, this was exactly what was warranted. Seton Hall isn’t a gimme game but they certainly aren’t what they were last year. While the Bluejays improved dramatically, the Pirates weren’t able to cover up the losses of Derrick Gordon and Isaiah Whitehead.
McDermott’s gameplan was fierce and unwavering, forcing the Pirates to kick out of the paint and shoot - a skill they lack tremendously. My, the defense was forceful and brilliant, hustle plays ending in won possessions and points on the opposite end. As the game wore on it became fascinating to watch the Pirate offense struggle to swing the ball around without caution, with a great deal of fear that any slight move may trigger a guard to spring from his position and pick the ball off. They created an atmosphere of dismay - something the boys from South Orange are normally known for.
When the second half began and Seton Hall began taking each possession to the rim with reckless abandon, playing a furious solo game with the ball and attempting to impose their will on isolation plays that weren’t properly set was mind boggling to comprehend, for the Bluejay defense had set a tone - a tone that we’ve never quite seen before. The flying bodies of Khyri Thomas and Marcus Foster to passing lanes, their innate ability to disrupt dribble drives, their steady hands poking into the bread baskets of Pirate players - the pressure mounted and it paid off in dividends. Simply put I’ve never seen anything quite like it from the squad in White and Blue at the CenturyLink Center
Maurice Watson Jr., was his typical self, diving into the trees and pulling up from anywhere in an effort so near perfect it brought tears to even the darkest of hearts. The joy and jubilation he puts forth with this game of basketball is nothing short of stupendous! O, how he controls the orange orb with impending will! His masterful performance tonight was a testament to not only his preparedness but his hardened gamesmanship, proving that a weathered veteran point guard will find ways to win ballgames in this college basketball landscape.
It was difficult to fully immerse and believe in the hype - hell, the national landscape lacks the hype - but it’s real. Right there in front of us. From a spectators standpoint this is by and large the best basketball team to put on a Creighton uniform in the modern era and it’s all so exciting.
When Justin Patton rejected an Angel Delgado offering I felt the hardwood quake in front of me. I didn’t understand what had happened as Patton had been a bit tentative all season long on the defensive end, but when he did it again it became clear that his awareness of not only the game of basketball itself but the ability to sway momentum makes him an absolute gem; a player that you wait so long to see in the trials of basketball fandom that it finally appears before you and that relief, that enormous payoff, washes over you like a splash of cold water after digging in the mines all summer long.
It’s hard to properly state the efficacy of Toby Hegner, but his presence on the court is paramount to the Jays’ success. His ability to do all of the small things to polish this diamond of a hoop squad occasionally goes unnoticed but my lord does he do some fantastic things. There isn’t a replay currently available to show you the monstrous rejection he had this evening, but there is this:
Bring on Nova.
See you Saturday.