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Rutgers Falls To Seton Hall 72-61 In Hard Fought Loss

It was a disappointing outcome, but this team proved they are much better than the past few seasons.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Seton Hall Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

This game had everything a great rivalry should have. There were tense moments throughout, both teams kept coming at each other, it was chippy at times, and the crowd was fired up all night. Most importantly, great players rise to the occasion in big games and there were notable performances from both sides in this contest. Ultimately, Seton Hall’s interior scoring and play of their big men were too much for Rutgers to overcome.

Biggest Moments of the 1st Half

The first was after trailing 9-6 at the under-12 timeout, they responded with a 7-2 run spurred by a Nigel Johnson three-pointer, Corey Sanders scoring a quick transition layup after a made basket, followed by an emphatic slam dunk by Deshawn Freeman to give them a 13-11 lead. That forced Hall coach Kevin Willard to call a timeout and it was obvious Rutgers had come to play.

The second key stretch of the half was with the game tied at 21, Nigel Johnson was fouled shooting from behind the arc. He made all three free throws and on the next possession, Jonathan Laurent drew a foul on Hall star Angel Delgado, his second of the game and with 5 minutes left in the first half. That spurned a 8-2 run to end the half, including Laurent making both from the line. Rutgers ran into the locker room with a 32-23 lead and held the Hall to 24% shooting in the first half.

Biggest Moments of the 2nd Half

After the under-16 timeout and Rutgers leading 39-33, Seton Hall went on a 9-2 run as Angel Delgado started to impose his will in the paint. He gave them a 42-41 lead and after Gettys missed a layup, there was another break in the action at the under-12 timeout. The lead evaporated quickly and Seton Hall had all the momentum.

However, Rutgers never stopped fighting and down 47-43 at the midway point of the second half, Mike Williams, as he has done all season, hit a huge three-pointer. After Rutgers stopped Hall on next possession, Corey Sanders attacked the rim and made the layup, plus the foul. He made the free throw and gave Rutgers a 49-47 lead. It was a huge sequence that kept them in the game.

The difference was Delgado for Seton Hall with the game tied at 49. Freeman picked up his 4th foul with 8:13 to go and Delgado took over the game. He dominated in the paint and was relentless, fouling out Gettys and triggering a 10-4 run. They never looked back and pulled away down the stretch.

The Game Was Over When...

Trailing 57-53, Rutgers couldn’t get a good shot, as Mike Williams missed a fadeaway three and Desi Rodriguez, marred by foul trouble most of the night, scored a runner over Sa to give Hall a 6 point lead. That forced Pikiell to call timeout with 3 minutes remaining. Madison Jones then hit a three to take a 62-55 lead and that basket was followed by a Desi dunk that put the game out of reach.

What We Learned

Rutgers can play elite defense when they have the right focus and intensity. Guards Corey Sanders, Nigel Johnson, and Mike Williams were great with on the ball pressure in the first half. However, they wore down and the bigs couldn’t stop the Hall inside. The Pirates shot 53% in the second half and outscored Rutgers 34-18 in the paint tonight.

Rutgers has yet to rebound well against a good team, as they had a -12 rebounding margin, similar to what they had in their other loss to Miami. It’s a concern as conference play is set to begin. Rutgers also lost the battle of second chance points by a 19-6 margin.

The guards carried the offense and used their quickness to generate looks, but Rutgers couldn’t get much going in the interior. CJ Gettys, Candido Sa, and Deshawn Freeman combined to shoot just 3-17 from the floor in this game. It led to the guards not being able to find many open looks late and they had to settle for contested jump shots.

The Rutgers big men, especially Shaq and Gettys were not effective at all against such an athletic front line as Seton Hall. Gettys will struggle against athletic, strong big men in the paint like Delgado.

Rutgers can make free throws when they are locked in. They shot 79% from the line, making 22 of 28 attempts. They were 12 of 15 in the first half, which was a big reason they led by 9 points at the break.

Ibrahima Diallo had only played 8 minutes all season coming in and gave this team 18 quality minutes off the bench tonight, especially in the first half. He finished with 2 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 blocks, but it was more than that. With Gettys and Sa in foul trouble most of the game, he gave this team great effort and big minutes after not being a factor all season.

It was a solid showing from the Rutgers faithful who attended the game. They were loud and into the game. It was fun to see.

Player Of The Game

Seton Hall - Angel Delgado

He dominated this game, as I feared he would. He only shot 7 of 19 from the field, but he was relentless and finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds. It was an impressive performance and he was able to stay out of foul trouble in the second half. He is an elite big man and Rutgers had no answer for him. He was also named the MVP of this game as part of the Garden State Hardwood Classic.

Rutgers - Nigel Johnson & Corey Sanders

Neither played their best games, but they paced this team on offense and frustrated the Hall’s backcourt on the defensive end at times. Sanders attacked the rim throughout and led the team with 17 points on a solid 8 of 14 shooting from the field. Nigel Johnson settled for too many jumpers, but still hit a few big ones and finished with 16 points, as well as making all five of his free throw attempts. No other Rutgers players finished in double figures scoring wise.

Key Stats

Rutgers needed to make some shots from behind the arc to win this game and only made 3 of 10. Issa Thiam was available, but did not play due to still being under the weather from being sick earlier in the week.

Seton Hall grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, while Rutgers only had 6. They had far too many one shot and done possessions in the second half because of it.

Deshawn Freeman did finish with 11 rebounds, but he was unable to be a factor on offense.

Rutgers had 19 turnovers in the game, which makes it very difficult to win on the road when that happens.

Key Quotes

Steve Pikiell

On the loss:

“It was the first four minutes of the second half that was the difference in the game. They scored 4 points on layups. We didn't come out of halftime the right way. We were kind of locking them up in the first half. And then we gave them freebies that got their energy going. They out rebounded us. I was worried about toughness. I’m always very concerned with that with our team. They got us on the backboards. They have a lot of weapons and they got it into the post. Delgado did a good job. A lot of whistles going on. Just kind of bogged down that second half for us.”

On the atmosphere of the rivalry game:

“I thought it was great. It was a great environment here today. I thought our guys never flinched with it and that’s a good thing for a young team. I thought our guys responded to the environment, we just have to do a better job of playing 40 minutes. When we have our opportunities, we have to cash in. I thought they (Seton Hall) did a great job with that.”

On if they are ready for Big Ten Play:

“I think we are prepared for the Big Ten. Teams are great, this team (Seton Hall) is excellent. We’re going to have to go on the road and play in some tough places. We showed some good signs today. People have a lot of questions about us, which is fine. I like this team. I like our whole roster. We’re going to get better. We have to execute and we have to add to our roster. Our defense in the first half was fantastic. We have to figure out how to play that for 40 minutes. Thought we had a good game plan going in. You have to make some plays though in the second half. They have a couple of guys, Carrington and Delgado, who can make some plays. We don’t have those emergency offensive players, but we will be getting some.”

On Diallo’s play off the bench:

“We were definitely playing him because of the matchup and the way fouls broke, he played. And he played well. Its the tip of the hat to him. I always tell them to stay ready. I'll play anyone at anytime. That's a perfect example and it bodes well for our roster. Just be ready and you never know when your number is called. His number was called and he played well. So I was pleased and happy for him. Mental toughness, physical toughness, its something we preach. And he has had it sitting on the bench not playing a lot and being able to respond tonight against a good player.”

Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard on Rutgers:

“I don't think they respected (Hall players) the job or respected how good of a defensive team Rutgers is. I think that was the biggest difference. Once they realized how good they were, they ran the offense better. “

What’s Next

The non-conference slate is complete, as Rutgers finishes with an 11-2 record. If we were told that would be their result at the start of the season, it would have made every Rutgers fan giddy. Tonight was a tough loss, but they showed up to play and gave their best shot against a really good team. They certainly performed better than they did against Miami, who I think is a step below Seton Hall after seeing them in person.

Rutgers has a couple days to regroup before the Big Ten gauntlet begins. It starts Tuesday night against Wisconsin, one of the favorites to win the conference. However, I do think there are a lot of positive takeaways from this game and the players afterwards seemed upbeat about the rest of the season. They know they made mistakes and fell short, but they all harped on their fight and togetherness as a team. It will be an uphill battle from here on out, but if they can continue to play with intensity and for each other, there will be better days ahead.