NEWARK — Desi Rodriguez led four players in double-figures with 23 points while Angel Delgado added 18 points, 14 boards and five assists before fouling out as No. 23 Seton Hall overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to pick off No. 25 Creighton at home, 90-84.
It was the most important win to date for a Pirates team that managed to put together an impressive non-conference résumé. They beat Texas Tech in Madison Square Garden. They won at Louisville. They’ve beaten Indiana, and VCU, and Vanderbilt.
But this is also a team that has faced a bit of turmoil in recent weeks. There was the collapse at Rutgers two weeks ago. There was the departure – and quick return – of freshman point guard Jordan Walker. There was the suspension of Ish Sanogo prior to a game against Manhattan that saw Myles Powell get ejected for a skirmish that also involved center Delgado.
Combine all of that with a miserable first half defensive performance, one that left Kevin Willard red-faced as he trailed his team to the locker room, and it looked like this promising season that the Pirates had managed to cobble together, a season four years in the making, was on the verge of going off the rails.
If No. 23 Seton Hall wants to be taken seriously, if they want to legitimately challenge No. 1 Villanova or No. 6 Xavier in the race for the Big East title, these are the kind of wins that they have to get. The Big East is not like the other power conferences; they play a true double-round robin. Every team has to play in every other team’s gym, and that makes defending your home court all that much more important.
Creighton is good. They are lethal in transition, they have a terrific crop of perimeter players and a coach that fully understands how to take advantage of those players’ skills. They, like Seton Hall, can make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. The Pirates are not the first team they’ve embarrassed defensively.
But Seton Hall found a way to win. They got the stops they needed to get, made enough plays down the stretch and overcame Delgado fouling out on some questionable officiating.
Those are the things that good teams do.
I don’t think Seton Hall is going to outpace Villanova in the Big East this season, but winning games like this will give them a puncher’s chance at it.