by John FantaFollow @John_Fanta
NEWARK – The second half clock read 8:45. Kevin Willard did what he does when the moment allows for it – attempt to give his superstar a quick rest. Myles Powell trotted to the bench, with the thought that he would sit until the under-8 minute media timeout and get back in to close a tight game out. Instead of just 45 seconds of game time, the break lasted nearly three minutes.
The only reason for the next stoppage was Ed Cooley strutting out near center court calling a timeout. Because with Powell out, Seton Hall was totally unfazed. Just like that Thursday night in December against Maryland. Just like the earlier moments in the game, when Providence threw lockdown defender David Duke and even double-teams at Powell.
The Hall didn’t shake, instead going on a 6-2 run to force the Friars to call the timeout as the Pirate lead ballooned to nine. That turned out to be the margin in a 73-64 Seton Hall victory over Providence, marking a ninth straight win for the Pirates.
Just as they have done during the program’s longest winning streak since 2003, the Pirates flexed their completeness. Powell leads the storylines for this team, and rightly so. But the question that was going to determine how this season would go was simple: Just how good would the supporting cast be?
The Hall is answering that with a resounding “yes” and doing it without the team’s third-leading scorer in junior Sandro Mamukelashvili, who’s missed 10 games with a broken right wrist. That “yes” includes the two games Powell missed due to the concussion, the two victories that started the program’s surge.
“Last year, we would not have won (this game),” said Willard, who matched P.J. Carlesimo’s record of 78 Big East wins at Seton Hall. “I think all these guys have great confidence now. I think all these guys understood that they can’t just depend on him. Every once in a while – he’s played six phenomenal games in a row in Big East play – he’s going to have an off-night.”
The Friars kept Powell quiet, holding him to just three points in the first half and 14 on the game. The senior got just six shot attempts off, converting on a trio. While the Friars contained him, Powell didn’t force anything and Willard thought it showed growth from the NBA prospect.
“I thought it showed a lot of maturity by Myles that he didn’t get frustrated,” said Willard. “In years past, he would have gotten a little frustrated with getting face-guarded, with getting grabbed, and I thought he really kind of sacrificed. The rest of the guys understand that when he’s getting taken away, they’ve got to step up and make some plays.”
Those others made plays in the victory over the Friars, with 7-foot-2 center Romaro Gill matching a career-high 17 points along with a career-best eight blocks to go with six boards. The Hall’s center leads the Big East with 64 denials on the season, and has six straight games in double-figures after tallying just one in his Division I career before that point. Sophomore wing Jared Rhoden poured in 15 points to go with eight boards, while senior point guard Quincy McKnight continued his rise with 11 points and eight assists.
“I think we’re showing everybody across the country that we’re not just the Myles Powell show,” said the superstar himself.
The 10th-ranked Pirates are certainly garnering national attention, but it’s in quotes like the one below that just give you a feel that this may only be the beginning.
“This isn’t where we just want to be,” said the Jamaica native. “We have a long way to go. We have to keep on working, and keeping on pushing every night we go out there.”
“It’s quite a dream,” he added.
That it is, and it has Hall fans dreaming of a season that goes deep into the month of March, if not April.