As good as Seton Hall’s core trio were in their 90-71 win over Fairleigh Dickinson Friday night, it was the play of their new point guard which had everyone after the game talking.
The triple threat of Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, and Desi Rodriguez helped Seton Hall surge past the Knights in front of a capacity crowd at historic Walsh Gymnasium and open the 2016-17 season on a winning note.
It was the play of Madison Jones, however, which played a key role in setting the pace Seton Hall needed to explode in the second half.
Delgado and Rodriguez posted double-doubles while Carrington finished with a game-high 27 points. Seton Hall, after an inconsistent first 20 minutes, came out after halftime and shot the lights out the gym. The Pirates went 22-28, shooting 78.6 percent from the field, including six of eight from behind the three-point line.
Jones was the maestro in the second half. He consistently made the correct pass at the right time. Finding Carrington on the break, or Delgado in the paint, Jones took full advantage of his opportunity to start in the spot vacated by Isaiah Whitehead’s departure for the NBA.
“Ten assists, one turnover, 31 minutes? I think he passed the first test,” Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said afterwards.
Whitehead played a big role for Seton Hall during his two years in the lineup as a scorer, finisher, and team leader. There’s enough offensive talent to absorb losing his scoring, however it’s Whitehead’s skill set at the point which will be missed.
The hope is that Jones, a transfer from Wake Forest, will help fill that void by playing smart, turnover-free basketball while putting his teammates in the best position to produce.
He did exactly that against Fairleigh Dickinson and it allowed Carrington to attack at the off-guard position while also creating plenty of opportunities for Delgado under the basket.
“We had been starting Myles Powell and Khadeen Carrington in the backcourt and Khadeen was really struggling with just the transition, not having another guy back there to help him, and when we moved Madison over last week, he just kind of gave Khadeen a little bit more freedom to be aggressive on offense, which we need him to be”
Carrington has the tools to be a dangerous scorer in Willard’s offense, allowing him to play to his strengths while having a seasoned player take over the point and distribute the ball is simply put, smart coaching.
Whitehead wasn’t the only departure after last season, Seton Hall also lost Derrick Gordon to graduation. Gordon was a high-energy player for Willard, he normally defended the other team’s best player and was a team leader.
In Jones, Willard also sees some of those intangibles.
“Defensively, he helps us,” said Willard. “He’s active, gets deflections, and can guard the other team’s best player.”
It’s still just one game, however it looks like Jones has Willard’s attention and also the early approval of his new teammates.
“He’s great,” Delgado said afterwards while jokingly speaking with the media. “I told him keep passing me the ball and I’ll get you assists.”
The way Delgado and Carrington played, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.