In the end the scoreboard told us Seton Hall put a 77-63 beating on Rutgers. Sunday’s meeting at the Prudential Center was a little deceiving. The end result was the culmination of what went on over an eight minute first half stretch. The numbers tell us Seton Hall had a 108-89 edge in offensive efficiency, 34-29% in offensive rebounding percentage and 21-16 in turnover rate. A clear cut difference in three major categories. Still, this was a game that came down to those eight minutes.
With 8 to go in the first half Steve Pikiell’s club was down 16-14. At just over five to play the score was knotted at 19. From that juncture the Hall went on an 18-8 run. Over that eight minute stretch the Pirates hit seven field goals to four by the Scarlet Knights. Myles Cale scored seven of his ten points with two field goals in the lane and one from deep. Bryce Aiken with a game high 22 and the Kenpom MVP, hit two three pointers while adding one on a penetration. Jared Rhoden, 16 on the night, added an inside shot.
On Rutgers side Ron Harper Jr. hit one from beyond the arc while Mawot Mog, Ralph Agee and Caleb McConnell (tying Cliff Omoruyi for team scoring honors with 13)- all had one field goal inside the arc.
A 37-27 halftime deficit is not insurmountable. In this case the ten point difference felt like, say about 20. Seton Hall had the momentum and a vociferous crowd backing them. The late Al McGuire always spoke about the dunk being a play igniting the crowd. In today;s game the three, besides being one more point than a dunk, has superseded the 'throw down' for crowd excitement.
Seton Hall, as noted, had three trifectas, during that eight minute stretch. The crowd went wild on each. The Pirates fed off that crowd, building the ten point lead at intermission. It was a lead Rutgers could not overcome as they fell to .500 (5-5) as Seton Hall improved to 9-1.
Next up for the Scarlet Knights is a three game home stand. Rider visits Saturday, Central Connecticut the 23rd and Maine the 29th. Three games definitely needed to build momentum and confidence prior to Big10 play resuming with a visit from Michigan after New Year’s.