by Josh Adams, @NCAAHoopsDigest
New York, NY— Seton Hall looked like they were sizing up the nets tonight in Madison Square Garden as they hope to cut them down in March at the end of the Big East Tournament. Their first appearance at the Mecca in midtown was a rousing success as Desi Rodriguez had another spectacular game and Myles Powell exploded down the stretch in helping the Pirates take down the #22 Texas Tech Red Raiders on Thursday night by the score of 89-79.
After dropping out of the Top 25 in the last week, the Pirates looked like they were on a mission in returning to New York and making a statement with a win over a ranked Texas Tech team. The first half was a back and forth affair between the two teams as they played evenly throughout the half. Rodriguez showed his mettle early by hitting some tough drives to the basket against a rugged Red Raiders front-court. On Texas Tech’s side of the offense, Zach Smith had a field day with hitting layups and highlight-reel dunks that brought the small but vocal fans that made the trip from Lubbock to their feet.
Texas Tech took a 42-39 lead into halftime as the Pirates had a couple poor possessions that resulted in turnovers to end the first half.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Angel Delgado yet in this gamer. The first-team Big East player had eight points at halftime but only three rebounds. He didn’t have the kind of impact Pirates fans are used to seeing from him during a game. Delgado got into foul trouble with drawing his fourth foul at the seven minute mark of the second half and had to sit. With the game still in question senior guard Khadeen Carrington tapped Powell on the shoulder and said, “Go get me a big shot.” Powell responded to his senior teammate by hitting a three pointer to put Seton Hall up by nine points and then drew a charge on Texas Tech’s Niem Stevenson on the next Red Raiders possession. As Texas Tech tried to claw back at the two minute mark, Powell put the game away by scoring seven consecutive points to put the game away for the Pirates.
Rodriguez had 24 points for Seton Hall while Powell chipped in 19 in the winning effort. It was the second consecutive victory for the Pirates in the annual Under Armor sponsored event. They beat the eventual Final Four bound South Carolina Gamecocks last season in the same format. When asked about dropping out of the Top 25 in this week’s AP Poll, Pirates Coach Kevin Willard didn’t seem concerned about it. “I wanted us to focus in on us.” said Willard, ” I think the biggest thing I realized as a coach is sometimes you have to focus in on yourself instead of worrying about getting your team better.”
Keenan Evans had 21 points for the Red Raiders (6-1) who will be a tough team in the Big 12 this season. Texas Tech Coach Chris Beard was complimentary of Seton Hall saying “They shoot the ball like that, they’ll be playing in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.”
Seton Hall (6-1) now travels to Louisville this weekend to take on the the #17 Cardinals. It was supposed to be Willard coaching against his mentor, Rick Pitino, but instead it will be against Dave Padgett, whom Willard once coached as an assistant under Pitino. The Pirates probably earned their way back into the Top 25 after tonight’s win but a victory on Saturday would give the Pirates a resume victory that could go a long way into seeding in March for the NCAA Tournament.