Seton Hall snaps their four game losing streak with an 82-77 win over DePaul to improve to 18-9 (7-7) behind a big performance from Desi Rodriguez.
The senior scored 33 points, had eight boards and two assists to lead the Pirates to the much-needed win and Seton Hall needed just about every one of those points to finish off the Blue Demons.
“He’s been our best offensive player of the last five games by far,” Coach Kevin Willard said after the game. “He was passing the ball great. With Desi it’s just a matter of time.”
Rodriguez’s performance was the difference in the game and was even bigger considering his slow start to the game.
“When he’s playing and he’s locked he’s the most dominate player in the league,” Willard said. “Sometimes he has his Desi moments. He was playing extremely hard. I have trust in Desi.”
Down the stretch Seton Hall led 77-68, but the Blue Demons used a three point basket and a bucket off a steal to cut the lead down to 77-73.
Freshman Jordan Walker then missed both free throws at the other end. After the Pirates got a stop, Rodriguez made two free throws. Max Strus, who had 14 points for DePaul, hit his only three of the game on the other end, but Walker finally made a free throw and Rodriguez made two more after that to finish off the win.
In the Big East and factoring in the way the Pirates have been playing they will take it. They clearly knew how much this game meant going into it.
“It’s like our Super Bowl,” Angel Delgado said. “We were the Eagles, they were the Patriots. We needed to win this game. When we play defense we can win any game.”
Delgado had a first half double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds and finished with 16 points and 19 boards in the win. Late in the first half, he dove on the floor multiple times for a loose ball that brought the crowd into the game.
It is also worth noting that Coach Willard has actually stopped practicing Delgado due his prior knee injury earlier in the season and he looked fresh on the floor.
“I stopped practicing the big fella because I want to take care of that knee,” Willard said. “I’m just worried about him bumping knees with someone. I thought he bounced back great today.”
Delgado has been relegated to the sideline at practice, but did look sharp on Sunday. However, missing practice doesn’t sit well with the senior.
“I’ll be so mad when he tells me ‘just stay on the bike,’” Delgado said. “I hate the bike every time I go to the bike. I’m just mad about that because I never miss a practice before, never miss a game. I don’t want to miss a game. Every time he takes me out at practice it’s annoying because I like to practice. That’s when I get better.”
Seton Hall’s best stretch of the game came just past the midway point in the first half when the defense went up to the level we were accustomed to see. That led to a 15-3 Pirates run. DePaul would then answer with a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to two at the break.
Marin Maric led the Blue Demons with an impressive 23 points on 10-12 shooting from the field.
The Pirate defense continued to be inconsistent in the second half and it certainly didn’t help that premier defender Ismael Sanogo and point guard Khadeen Carrington fouled out within two minutes of each other late in the game. Sanogo fouled out with 3:25 remaining and Carrington fouled out with a little over a minute to go, which made the last minute stressful to say the least for Pirate fans.
“We are not falling apart. It’s league play,” Willard said. “We’ve been on the road. No one is perfect on the road. I love our attitude. You are not blowing anyone out this time of the year.”
It seems that the Pirates just have to put it all together. Whether it is starting strong, finishing strong, free throw shooting, defensive intensity, the mental part of the game the Pirates have had to address all of these during the now concluded four game losing streak.
The good news for Seton Hall is that the streak is over and now they can focus on making those adjustments.
“We’ve been through this since our freshman year,” Delgado said. “Coach always says ‘it’s nothing new to us.; We might get some punches, but we always get back up and fight. That’s what we are doing right now.”
Now the key is putting it all together for the Pirates.
“I’m happy that we got the win, but I’m still not satisfied with where we are at,” Desi Rodriguez said. “Definitely not happy when we give up leads. Sometimes we have breakdowns on defense. It starts with the seniors. Defensively we definitely have to be better.”
Despite having a huge game and making big shots down the stretch, Rodriguez gave a comprehensive statement about where the team is at and the work that still needs to be done.
“It feels good to get back on a winning streak after losing four straight,” Rodriguez said. “It’s been tough for us. I think the games we lost we played well at only some parts of the game. You got to play well all 40 minutes and that’s what our problem is. We get too complacent. If we are playing well we go on a streak, we get momentum and we get too complacent. Teams don’t back down, they come at us and we are not mentally strong enough to get what they are throwing at us. If we can keep momentum going we can get wins. The bounce back win today felt good and hopefully we can get a couple more wins before heading into the Big East Tournament.”
That pretty much sums up where Seton Hall is at heading into a big showdown with Providence on the road this Wednesday in Rhode Island.
DePaul drops to 10-16 (3-11) and they head to Villanova on Wednesday.