Seton Hall needed an impressive showing at their home away from home to help prepare for the upcoming Big East conference schedule.
In their way stood the impressive South Carolina Gamecocks, playing without their best player, coming onto the court with an 8-0 record to start the season.
This game was indeed, as advertised, a thriller that took the Pirates all the way to the limit.
Khadeen Carrington found Desi Rodriguez for a tiebreaking layup with 11.6 seconds left to lift Seton Hall towards a 67-64 win over number 16 ranked South Carolina in the Under Armour Reunion Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
Seton Hall trailed South Carolina by seven at halftime, but the Pirates battled back down the stretch with tenacity while making the necessary adjustments on offense to combat the tough defense of the Gamecocks.
For the majority of the first half, South Carolina did exactly that to Seton Hall’s offense. The Pirates came into the game with four players averaging double figures in scoring. However, the ball movement wasn’t there for Seton Hall and South Carolina’s defense appeared at times to frustrate the Pirates.
South Carolina played without their leading scorer and rebounder Sindarius Thornwell, who’s indefinitely suspended, and let their defense be a catalyst in the first half while PJ Dozier and Curtis Silva stepped up and supplied offense.
After the intermission there were two turning points for Seton Hall, they became the aggressors on defense and Carrington was dominant down the stretch.
“After a while we said screw it and just drive,” Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said afterwards on his team’s change of plans on offense. “They take you out of your offense really well.”
Willard’s theory worked and his players responded. The Pirates took a 64-60 lead with 1:49 left when the Gamecocks rallied to tie the game before Carrington found Rodriguez for the game-winner.
“I said pass it to Desi and let everybody get out of the way,” said Willard. “Sometimes that’s the best offense.”
Carrington led the way for Seton Hall with 21 points, Rodriguez added 16 points and Angel Delgado delivered another double-double for the Pirates with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Dozier led the Gamecocks with 20 points.
“They’ve got some tough, tough dudes that don’t back down,” South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said after the game. “They got a culture of winning that was kind of established last year with obviously the season they had and they just got us, plain and simple.”
For Seton Hall, that culture of winning culminated last season on the Garden hardwood when they won the Big East tournament. The core of this team is New York City to it’s core, they feel just as comfortable at the Garden as they do at the Rock across the river in Newark.
“It’s a bunch of New York guys, that’s the core of the team,” said Carrington, a Brooklyn native, afterwards. “We get to play here, not that we don’t get up to play anywhere else: but I think playing in front of your family, playing at home in front of your friends, it’s a little more to it.”
This was a quality win for Seton Hall, now 8-2 on the season, which will go a long way with the NCAA Tournament committee in March, that’s of course as long as the Pirates take care of business in the Big East when conference play starts up.
But no one will have to tell Seton Hall this, they’ve been through this before, have grown together, and their experiences together as a team appear to have them primed for what’s ahead.
“We’ve been here for a little while, so it’s kind of embedded in our brain that wins like this travel,” said Carrington. “An SEC team, they’re going to get better as the year goes along, and they’re going to get better as the year goes along, and they’re going to beat good teams. At the end of the year, when March comes along and the committee’s watching, games like that and wins go a long way.”