(Michael Nzei about to take a free throw with his teammates looking on – Photo by Jason Schott)
Seton Hall had one of their best performances of the season, as they thoroughly dominated Georgetown, 90-75, on Wednesday night at Prudential Center.
The win puts the Pirates in a tie for third place in the Big East with St. John’s, with both teams holding 6-6 conference records. Georgetown fell to 5-7 in the Big East and they are in a three-way tie for fifth with DePaul and Butler.
Georgetown Head Coach Patrick Ewing did not mince words after this one, saying, “To me, they beat us on all phases of the game. We were poor defensively. We didn’t execute our offense well. We didn’t show up. To me, this was one of our worst losses in my two years here. My guys did not come ready to play.”
Seton Hall was led by Miles Powell, who had 30 points on 8-20 from the field, including 4-12 on three-pointers and a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line. He also had 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, and a steal.
Michael Nzei had 18 points (7-15 FG) and 9 rebounds, just missing a double-double, along with 3 blocks and 2 assists. Myles Cale had 17 points (5-12 FG, 3-8 threes), with 7 rebounds, an assist, and a block. Sandro Mamukelashvili had 11 points (4-4 FG, 3-3 threes), 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. Quincy McKnight had 9 points (4-6 FG, 1-1 threes) and 9 assists, with 2 rebounds and 2 steals
Georgetown was led by Jessie Govan, who had 20 points on 8-14 from the field, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. He was their only starter in double figures. Greg Malinowski had 16 points (7-10 FG, 2-5 threes) off the bench, along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
Seton Hall dominated this one early, as they went on a 17-2 run to take a 23-9 lead on a Shavar Reynolds layup at the 11:47 mark of the first half.
The Pirates opened up a 20-point lead, 46-26, on a Cale three-pointer at the 3:12 mark. They took a 48-35 lead into halftime, led by 17 first-half points from Powell, who shot 3-10 from the field (2-7 on threes) and was a perfect 9-9 on free throws.
Seton Hall kept it going in the second half, as a Powell layup at the 15:59 mark gave them a 21-point lead, 63-42.
Georgetown responded with a 7-0 run, but Cale made a jumper and Powell made a three to make it 68-49 at 13:20.
The Hoyas got as close as 11, at 79-68, on a Jamorko Pickett three-pointer at the 7:28 mark, but the Pirates were back up 18, at 88-70, when Cale drained a three with 2:53 remaining.
Mac McClung went up for a three with 2:01 remaining, but Powell swatted the ball away before he could get a shot off, capping a big night for Seton Hall.
Seton Hall Head Coach Kevin Willard said of his team playing with a double-digit lead, “I can’t remember the last time we had a double-digit lead. I think the biggest thing that we’ve been — this is the first time we’ve had back-to-back league games at home all year, and I think the biggest thing was what I’ve been hammering down over the last three days, four days of practice — is we’ve got to come out and be much more aggressive offensively, everybody. I thought Myles Powell — even though he missed his first three shots — I thought he came out aggressive shooting the basketball, being aggressive, and I thought that set the tone. I thought everybody picked up off his body language, because that’s what he’s been doing in practice. He’s back to being that guy in practice, and when he comes out and he’s that aggressive, it just gives everyone else that much confidence.”
Willard said of Nzei and Mamukelashvili’s performances, “Mikey’s been playing phenomenal. We’re trying to get him the basketball a little bit more when he has smaller guys on him, because he just has a really good knack at scoring, and Sandro — he’s been frustrating me because he has been playing so well in practice and he hasn’t been aggressive in games — I’ve been on him, and I thought he came out again, he made his first couple of shots, but I thought he battled Jessie (Govan) really well, I thought he played pick-and-roll defense really well, and I thought he passed the basketball well. I think both of them really — the way they were playing — they just weren’t going to come out.”
McKnight had a solid game on offense with 9 points and 9 assists, but he made his mark in this one with his defense against Georgetown’s James Akinjo.
A freshman guard from Oakland, CA, Akinjo averages 13.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, and he was held to 6 points on 1-6 shooting, with just 1 rebound and 1 assist.
Willard said of McKnight keeping Akinjo in check, “I thought Q really started the game off defensively — in our press, he was great. He really worked him. I thought both Myles and him got him out of rhythm a little bit. For a young guard in this league, he’s really good. Both him and (Mac) McClung are going to be really special players. I think the league is not going to enjoy those guys over the next couple of years, I can tell you that much, but I thought the way Q came out defensively — like Myles came out offensively — really set the tone for us.”
Willard said of liking where Seton Hall is as a team, “I’d like to see us get a little bit better defensively at certain things, and I need to get our bench involved a little bit more, but that’s on me. I have confidence in those guys. It’s just sometimes when your starters are playing with as much confidence and playing as well as it is, it’s hard to get them in.”
On Seton Hall’s ball movement and efficiency, Willard said, “Again, I just think that’s good offensive rhythm. I thought guys were looking for each other, I thought Mike Nzei did a really good job of making himself available, and when Mikey’s getting in the lane, slipping, working on the baseline, it kind of opens everything up for everybody.”