With some of its weaknesses exposed, No. 22 Seton Hall must get to work in hopes of turning them into strengths, beginning with Wednesday’s game with visiting Wagner. The Pirates struggled with turnovers and received next to nothing from its bench in falling last week at Rutgers, but can start to make amends with another victory against the Seahawks.
Kevin Willard’s team committed 18 turnovers and his bench accumulated more fouls and turnovers (nine) than points and assists (eight) in losing in the Garden State Hardwood Classic. “I have a lot of confidence in the bench and I’ll keep going to them,” Willard told the media. “ You can’t play five guys 40 minutes.” The decision to move Khadeen Carrington to point guard that has worked so well for much of the season didn’t work against Rutgers as the senior struggled with his shot and failed to get the ball to the team’s playmakers. Carrington and backcourt mate Myles Powell will have their hands full in guarding the Wagner duo of Blake Francis and JoJo Cooper, who have combined to average 33.4 points, 8.3 assists and 6.6 rebounds for the Seahawks, who saw their six-game winning streak snapped in a loss to Rider.
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ABOUT WAGNER (7-2): Francis didn’t come into the season expecting to be this kind of scorer, but with an injury to Romone Saunders and the loss of three other leading scorers from last season, coach Bashir Mason has given him the green light. The 6-1 guard from Virginia has responded by scoring in double figures in all nine games - one more than he did last season - while limiting his turnovers. “My role has definitely changed,” Francis, who has helped to lead the Seahawks to the best start since the 1979-80 season, told the media. “Coach told me I need to be a more aggressive player on the offensive side and that’s what I have been trying to do.”
ABOUT SETON HALL (9-2): The Pirates may need to make a point of getting the ball inside to center Angel Delgado, who had only seven points to go along with 21 rebounds against Rutgers. Delgado is taking fewer shots and fewer free throws than he did last season, which has resulted in him scoring two fewer points per game. The Pirates, who have won eight straight and 22 of 28 games overall against Wagner, also need to feed sophomore Myles Powell when he is hot, which he has been over the last three games (16-of-29).
1. Saunders, who led the Seahawks with 15 points per game last season, made his first appearance and scored nine points against Rider.
2. The 21 rebounds for Delgado was one off his career high and was the most for a player in the history of the Seton Hall-Rutgers rivalry.
3. The loss to Rutgers was only the fourth in the last 57 games for Seton Hall when leading by seven points at any point in a game.
PREDICTION: Seton Hall 79, Wagner 66