Once again, it was the sophomore core for Seton Hall that led the way. For the second straight night, Khadeen Carrington was fantastic and led the way scoring the basketball for the Pirates with 23 points to go along with seven rebounds. Carrington had a career-high in scoring against Creighton and backed it up with another great performance in the semifinals.
Isaiah Whitehead did a little bit of everything once again for The Hall. He finished with 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Whitehead is continuing to show people why he was in consideration for the conference player of the year award. If you can sum Whitehead’s run in conference play into one word it would be "win." As in, he does what is necessary on the basketball court for his team to win. If they need rebounding, he does it. The Pirates need him to set up a big man? He drops them a beautiful pass. Seton Hall needs a bucket because insert team name here is making a run, he makes a shot. Whatever the Pirates need, Whitehead gives it to them.
Continuing with the sophomore flavor, Angel Delgado was impressive after struggling against Creighton in the quarterfinals. After only scoring three points on Thursday, Delgado finished with 15 points and six rebounds on 5-7 shooting from the field including some impressive post moves.
Of course, Seton Hall’s defense was crucial in the victory as it is in all wins for the Pirates. Derrick Gordon was making the little plays on both ends of the floor and Ismael Sanogo made life difficult for James Farr and Jalen Reynolds. Defense was crucial again for Seton Hall and is why they are in this position.
Xavier deserves tons of credit for not giving up in this game. It looked like Seton Hall was going to run away with it like they did in the previous meeting at the Prudential Center. They forced 25 Pirate turnovers and made this game a lot closer than it should have been.
Freshman Edmond Sumner was great for Xavier with a team-high 21 points, but it took him 23 shots to get there and he was one of the few players to keep his composure down the stretch. J.P. Macura, Jalen Reynolds and Myles Davis all picked up technical fouls in this game. James Farr was also solid with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. Xavier put a number of Seton Hall players like Whitehead, Gordon, Delgado and others in foul trouble however, the Pirates were able to work through it and win this game.
Here are three things we learned from this memorable game.
3 Things We Learned:
1) Isaiah Whitehead is the best player in the Big East
I made the case for him to win the Big East Player of the Year Award and our staff writers votes him the co-player of the year. Yeah, we had a three-way tie. Anyway, Whitehead has been the best player in the conference during Big East play. Period. You know who agrees with me? Xavier head coach Chris Mack.
"He is the best player in the league. Put that down, I voted for him. He is the real freaking deal" Mack said.
Whitehead has been playing like the "real freaking deal" for months now. He makes the plays necessary for his team to win and is able to make his teammates better on the court. That is a special trait to have in a basketball player. Whitehead is a special player.
"Just to do it in front of our friends and family and especially beating a tough opponent in Xavier. They’re a great team" Whitehead said. "Still at the end they didn’t give up. It’s really a great accomplishment to get to the championship game."
Kris Dunn in the Big East Player of the Year? I want a recount.
2) Xavier’s veterans were not composed when it mattered most
The Musketeers did not get enough from their frontcourt in this game. Many believe Xavier is one of the deepest teams in college basketball, but they were not able to match the production from Seton Hall’s frontline. Reynolds really struggled tonight and finished with just six points, seven rebounds and fouled out of the game. He also picked up a technical foul for shoving Carrington with his forearm while he was going up for a rebound.
Davis had as many points as he had turnovers with eight tonight as Gordon and others really clamped down on the Xavier guard. All Mack could do was tip his cap to the Pirates.
"Give Seton Hall the credit. They were the much better team tonight. They did what they do to a lot of teams, that is they punked us" Mack said. "The first eight minutes of the game, our offense really, really allowed Seton Hall to be at their best."
After falling behind early it was tough to come back for the Musketeers and they were eventually able to, but they did not have enough time.
"There’s many reasons: Our turnovers, our quick shots in the first half just put us in the hole" Farr said. "Seton Hall is a team once you get down on them, it’s going to be a battle to get back."
Now the Musketeers will sit back until Sunday and await their NCAA Tournament seeding.
3) Pirates can make history on Saturday night
For the first time since 1993, the Seton Hall Pirates will be playing in the Big East Tournament final. They are 2-0 all-time in Big East Tournament championship games and will look to win a third on Saturday. No one that currently goes to school as an undergraduate at Seton Hall University was born the last time The Hall won the Big East Tournament. It is a special opportunity that the Pirates hope to take advantage of and the fact that it is against the top-seed and defending tournament champions Villanova makes the matchup that much better.
"It still hasn't hit me, to be perfectly honest with you. To be playing in the Big East Championship in the Mecca in New York City on Saturday night" Willard said. "I think these guys are starting to understand the greatness of this tournament. I've tried to talk to them a little bit about the tradition and the great programs, the great players."
Willard also showed his team footage of him playing in the Big East Tournament. Isaiah your thoughts?
"It was terrible, by the way (laughter). Just wanted to get that out there" Whitehead said.
At the press conference, Willard, Whitehead and Carrington were very loose and relaxed, but also in the moment. They know the chance that they have in front of them at MSG in what is shaping up to be an epic Big East Tournament Final.
Seton Hall and Villanova will meet at the Big East Tournament on Saturday night. It does not get much better than that.