Desi Rodriguez Hit the Game Winner in OT/collegehoopsdigest

by John Fanta, @John_Fanta

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The odds were stacked against Seton Hall in a game the Pirates needed to win.

Kevin Willard’s team entered overtime at Georgetown without Ismael Sanogo, who exited the game late in regulation with a leg injury, and Khadeen Carrington, who fouled out.

The Hall has come close at Providence, at Marquette, and most recently, at Xavier earlier this week. The set-up was for another gutsy performance but a Pirate loss.

On Saturday, though, the mark of a veteran team that is in the NCAA Tournament conversation shined through, as SHU rallied twice in the final two minutes of regulation and then another two times in overtime to edge the Hoyas, 68-66.

“I was saying it the whole time coming into this one – we could not lose this game,” said Angel Delgado, who continued a historic season with a career-high 26 points to go along with 17 rebounds. “We felt that if we could get this game, it could start our run.”

The opportunity is certainly available for The Hall to do just that, as the 14-8 Pirates play four of their next five games at the Prudential Center and the lone road game in that stretch coming at Madison Square Garden against St. John’s. While a 4-6 BIG EAST record does not look pretty at the moment, a 10-2 mark in non-conference play with wins over South Carolina (19th in NCAA RPI, 25th in kenpom) and California (46th in NCAA RPI, 55th in kenpom) combined with several upcoming opportunities to build the NCAA Tournament resume at home is why Saturday’s win was so crucial.

The other story from the contest beyond Sanogo’s injury came from Khadeen Carrington. Coming off a tough night at Xavier, the junior answered with a 16-point, 3-assist night on 5-of-11 shooting. He hit one of the game’s biggest shots as well, tying the score at 63 with a floater in the middle of the lane with 36 seconds left.

As for the Pirates’ defense, it stood tall in the extra period, as SHU held Georgetown to just three points. While L.J. Peak and Rodney Pryor combined for 31 points, they shot a combined 12-for-32 (37.5%) from the field.

The overtime period was erratic, but in a way, Desi Rodriguez hitting what proved to be the game-winner speaks to the junior’s improvement. Rodriguez only shot 4-for-19 from the field. But he put the past behind him and when the blue and white needed a bucket, the Bronx native scored the ball while slashing to the basket.

Delgado echoed the mentality of his teammates and how they handled the game down the stretch.

“We have had this before, back in freshman year,” said Delgado. “We didn’t know how to fight through it then, but this year, we know how to do that. I’m confident in that.”

In a conference as unforgiving as the BIG EAST, a road win is a treasure. For this one to come when Seton Hall was in as close to a must-win scenario that you can get in early February, it showed that the Pirates do belong in the conversation to dance.

Up next? A Wednesday night showdown at The Rock with Providence, which won the first meeting at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Jan. 14, 65-61. By all accounts, this will be another contest that The Hall will need to grab.

One piece of advice to Pirate fans – it may come off as cliche and I get that if you think it’s overrated, but there are truly no gimme’s in the BIG EAST. The Friars were supposed to have a down year. They took Villanova down to the final minute Wednesday after they won at Marquette last weekend. The same mentality that Seton Hall came out with on Saturday to produce a 13-2 lead in the opening minutes will be needed from here on out for a run at the dance to turn from potential to a reality.