It’s been a while since Seton Hall has seen a night like this one. Heck, Pirate fans may have never seen one quite like it ever.
A perfect senior night.
Seton Hall seniors Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Ismael Sanogo were honored on senior night and the Pirates backed it up with a 77-70 win on an emotional night for a special group at the Rock.
The Pirates honored their core four before the game and, as expected, there were plenty of tears shed by the players and Coach Kevin Willard.
“I think our fans were phenomenal,” Willard said. “They showed their unbelievable appreciation for the seniors. That’s the best senior night I’ve ever been a part of. It was very special.”
It was a tough night, especially for Willard who started to shed tears before his team even took the floor for the senior night ceremony.
“It was the hardest pregame talk I’ve ever had,” Willard said. “I had to go back and get in front of the mirror and say ‘get your stuff together.’ I spend more time with them for eight months than my own family. You are proud of the men they have become.”
Sometimes the emotions of senior leads to slow starts, but Delgado and Carrington got the team off and running from the tip. They would take it from there.
Delgado had 21 points and 10 rebounds on his senior night, which was his 71st double-double of the season. Expect anything different? He was sensational.
Carrington made some big and exciting plays on his way to a team-high 25 points as he continues his hot streak to finish the season.
“There was no way we were going to allow ourselves to lose that game,” Carrington said. “It was a tough win, a gutty win. We are going to need more like those. It was a great night, especially ending with a ‘W’ going out the right way.”
Rodriguez, who did not play, dressed and received a curtain call after the crowd that was chanting his name in the final seconds.
“I was about to go sub myself in,” Rodriguez said with a smile. “Just knowing they love us I’m excited about that. This was a great win to go out with. All the seniors stepped up.”
Rodriguez didn’t get to play, but will remember playing with his teammates and the fans that cheered for him tonight and all four years.
“Just leaving it all on the floor with my fellow seniors,” Rodriguez said. “They did a great job, we made each other better. The Rock just (the fans) packing it in showing us their support.”
Sanogo did not dress to play, but received a great ovation during the pregame and along with his fellow seniors hugged many fans on the court after the game (as they always did) for the last time. For Sanogo, he will miss playing in front of his hometown fans the most.
“It’s playing in Newark in front of all the people that are from Newark,” Sanogo said. “Playing in your hometown, that’s always a great thing.”
For Butler, Kelan Martin shined with 35 points and literally carried the Bulldogs the entire way. Besides Tyler Wideman’s 10 points, no one else scored in double figures for Butler.
Seton Hall won this game without its leading scorer and its best defender and head into the Big East Tournament with a lot of momentum. Clearly, senior night played a factor in motivating the team.
“It’s who they are, it’s what they have done throughout their entire career,” Willard said. “To see where they started and where they are now. They played the same way all four years.”
The bench also had a big night as well led by six points and 10 boards from Mike Nzei while Myles Cale added nine points in the win.
After the game, the seniors met with fans as has become the tradition since they came to Seton Hall. Delgado, one of the Rock’s favorite sons, will miss playing in the Prudential Center as much as the fans will miss seeing out on the floor.
“It’s so many things,” Delgado said. “I can remember so many things, but the most is when we beat the ranked teams. We beat all these ranked teams when nobody believed that we could. I’m always going to remember that. I’m always going to remember my guys. I’m always going to be happy to be a part of this.”
Seton Hall sweeps Butler to finish at 21-10 (10-8) in the regular season and will play Butler 19-12 (9-9) again in the three-six matchup in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament on Thursday night.
Rodriguez is expected to be back on Thursday to play Butler at the Garden. Sanogo expects to play, but Willard is still playing the waiting game to see how he will feel.
One last note on the seniors who deserve the last word here.
Seton Hall’s seniors have accomplished a ton in their time as Pirates and you could see from the crowd how much this group meant to the school, program, conference and community. They are not done, but it is only fitting that they went out with a performance like this on senior night.
The Big East Tournament beckons! We will have all of the coverage from Madison Square Garden starting on Wednesday, March 7th!
See you at MSG!