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Morning After: Creighton Dismantles #19 Seton Hall 80-63

Morning After: Creighton Dismantles #19 Seton Hall 80-63

[Box Score]

Bluejay Beat Wrap-Up Podcast:

Recap & Analysis:

Coming off their worst performance of the season (and one of the worst in Greg McDermott’s tenure at Creighton), the Bluejays stormed out of the gates to score the game’s first eight points, and led 20-4 after less than seven minutes of action. Martin Krampelj started the scoring with an alley-oop. Marcus Foster hit a pair of threes and got to the rim with ease for a layup. Khyri Thomas hit a three, too, and later drove to the basket for a layup. After a three by Ronnie Harrell, the Jays had made eight of their first 10 shots from the floor — and were blowing the doors off the 19th ranked team in the country.

Pirate coach Kevin Willard called timeout to try and slow the Bluejay blitz, but instead found himself in another episode of the Seton Hall Soap Opera. Only the players and coaches know for sure what happened in their huddle, but reading between the lines of Jerry Carino’s reporting in the Asbury Park Press, it seems to be a fair conclusion that Desi Rodriguez mouthed off to his head coach, and left Willard no choice but to send a message by benching his star.

Rodriguez, the team’s leading scorer at 18.2 points per game, and coming off a 23 point night in the first meeting between these two teams, played just six minutes on Wednesday night. He’d scored all four of his team’s points and grabbed two rebounds already in that short time, but also shown a questionable defensive effort and committed two turnovers, including one right before the timeout that preceded whatever happened in their huddle.

Willard didn’t speak to the media after the game, but in his postgame radio interview on the Seton Hall network, he tried to downplay the incident. “He’s been playing so well, so many minutes, he had that look on his face that he just didn’t want to be out there,” Willard told Pirate play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen. “When he gets that way, you just kind of let him regroup and refocus, and it just didn’t happen [for him].”

A weird explanation, to be sure, but with most teams that would have been the end of it, at least publicly. Not with this Seton Hall team. Moments after Willard’s quote began circulating on Twitter, Rodriguez responded:

We touched on it in the Primer a bit, and it was true again on Wednesday night: this group of seniors for Seton Hall are tremendously talented, but they wear their emotions on their sleeves. When they’re on, they’re one of the top 15-20 teams in the country, feeding off the energy of their successes (and each other) to become even better. But the reverse is true, too. When they’re not on, often things spiral completely out of control — they lose composure, they pout, they get into arguments with one another and their coaches, and one or more of their stars usually wind up on the bench sulking. It’s bizarre.

In their careers against Creighton, this has happened time after time. In a 2015 game in Newark that SHU ended up winning by one point, Angel Delgado was so distraught he sat in tears on the bench and openly refused to join his teammates in the huddle during timeouts. In the 2016 game in Newark, Delgado, Rodriguez, and Isaiah Whitehead were all benched in the second half of a 82-67 Creighton win; Willard’s explanation was that he needed to “prove a point.” And on and on.

With Rodriguez on the bench, and with Khryi Thomas blanketing Khadeen Carrington, and with Toby Hegner fronting Angel Delgado to deny him post touches, Seton Hall didn’t have many experienced options for scoring the ball. Still, they crept back into the game slowly, and as foul trouble piled up on the Bluejays, inexperienced lineups played a role in Seton Hall’s comeback.

Late in the first half, CU had Marcus Foster, Khyri Thomas, and Davion Mintz all on the bench with two fouls, and ran out a lineup with their two freshman guards (Mitch Ballock and Ty-Shon Alexander) and transfer Kaleb Joseph. It’s a lineup that the Jays have barely, if ever, used in practice much less in a game, and it showed — with turnovers, poor decision making, and empty possessions. Joseph was the primary culprit, turning it over twice, and committing two fouls of his own, leaving Coach Greg McDermott no choice but to sub in Tyler Clement.

CU had been ahead 35-24 when the last of their three starting guards went to the bench; late in the half the Jays had to roll the dice by bringing Foster back in after the Pirates cut the lead to 37-32. Harrell gave them back some momentum at the horn with a driving layup, and they took a seven-point lead into the locker room.

Harrell would start the second half in place of Martin Krampelj, who exited late in the first with what looked to be a fairly benign injury but turned out to be bad enough to hold him out the rest of the game. Until results of an MRI are back there’s not much known about the extent of that injury, but if Krampelj’s facial expressions on the bench and McDermott’s comments on his radio show about the prognosis “not being great” are any indication, the MRI will probably not be good news.

Krampelj’s injury notwithstanding, CU began the second half on a 7-2 run, and then unleashed a flurry of knockout punches that left Seton Hall dazed and upset. Ronnie Harrell drained a long three to make it 53-40:

Thomas went up and over a defender for a one-handed putback dunk:

Then a tough, contested three from Foster:

The haymakers weren’t just on offense. They forced a shot-clock violation with 30 seconds of harassing defense. Twice, CU forced a five-second call — once on an inbounds play where they had every passing option covered, and once in space as Khyri Thomas completely enveloped Khadeen Carrington and made it impossible for the Seton Hall standout to shoot, or pass, or do anything at all. When the #Khyrifense Mixtape Vol. 2 drops, that play might appear more than once. It was that good.

With the rout on, a near-capacity crowd at CenturyLink Center was still roaring when Harrell nearly blew the roof off the building with a shot so dizzying that Myles Powell nearly fell over trying to defend it. He’d picked up a loose ball, dribbled the length of the floor, and then as he neared the basket, flipped the ball around his back, switching from his right hand to his left in one fluid motion, and then finished with a layup as Powell literally stumbled backwards.

The 17-point lead gave the Bluejays a huge resume win, moved them to 15-4 overall and 5-2 in the league, and slots them into a tie for second place. They’re a perfect 12-0 at home so far this year, and against one of the favorites in the league, led wire-to-wire.

Key Stats:

Seton Hall’s senior trio of Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado entered the night averaging a combined 46.6 points per game, but they would score 12 total as each man had just four points. Delgado was also held to four rebounds in the contest, nearly eight less than his league-leading average of 11.7 per game.

Delgado’s streak of 17 straight double-doubles in Big East games ended, with the senior logging four points, four rebounds, and five turnovers. Toby Hegner was brilliant defensively against Delgado all night, fronting him to prevent post touches, blocking out to prevent offensive boards, and beating the star forward at his own game by being more aggressive. Hegner so frustrated Delgado that late in the game, Delgado shoved an elbow into Hegner’s chest while fighting for a rebound. A harmless play, but an overly physical one, and it was called a flagrant-1. Delgado would spend the final eight minutes of the game on the bench, and then offer a one-word statement on Twitter afterwards:

Standout Performance:

Marcus Foster scored 25 points, going 8-13 from the floor, 5-8 from three-point range, and 4-4 from the line. All night, he made clutch buckets, and with this three late in the game he moved into the 1,000 point club at Creighton.

It took Foster just 54 games to score 1,000 points in a Bluejay uniform, the fastest player to do so since the late 1960s when Bob Portman got to 1,000 in 43 games. For the record: Doug McDermott needed 57 games to reach that mark, and Rodney Buford took 59.

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