Wagner ends COVID-induced hiatus with game at No. 25 Seton Hall
No. 25 Seton Hall slipped four spots in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll but held onto its ranking following a 2-1 week.
Back home for the majority of December, the Pirates (5-1) will take the court again Wednesday in Newark, N.J., to face Wagner (2-0).
A week ago, Seton Hall lost to Ohio State on Meechie Johnson Jr.’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the first round of the Fort Myers (Fla.) Tip-Off. The Pirates then beat Cal 62-59 in the consolation game.
Seton Hall returned home and faced SWAC opponent Bethune-Cookman on Sunday — and surprisingly found itself trailing 34-33 at halftime.
The Pirates couldn’t make a field goal in the final three minutes before the break, and the Wildcats capitalized by ending the half on a 9-0 run. However, a 23-3 run in the middle of the second half created all the separation the Pirates needed to ensure a victory, 84-70.
“I don’t try to reinvent the wheel at halftime,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “We try to just make game adjustments at halftime. I think that was it. That’s all I really do at halftime. I’m not a yeller. It’s not worth it.”
Willard did decide to make one major adjustment. He used only two of his original five starters to open the second half.
The Pirates’ bench continued to perform well, especially on offense. Jamir Harris and Tyrese Samuel each scored 11 points and Tray Jackson added eight. Harris made three 3-pointers, two in the second half.
“We got ourselves into the hole based on a lack of energy, so we knew what we had to do,” Harris said. “I feel like we did a good job coming out in the second half and doing that.”
It’s hard for Seton Hall to know what’s in store when it plays Wagner.
On one hand, the Seahawks were voted as preseason favorites in the Northeast Conference. On the other, the program had each of its past three scheduled games postponed as a result of multiple positive COVID-19 tests among its Tier 1 personnel.
As a result, Wagner hasn’t played since Nov. 13, so the players likely will have to kick off some rust.
The school from Staten Island, N.Y., won the NEC regular-season title in 2020-21 but lost in the conference tournament semifinals to Mount St. Mary’s. To coach Bashir Mason, last year’s successes mean the Seahawks will be wearing targets on their backs this time around.
“You go from (preseason No. 8 last year), and nobody’s thinking about you, to preseason No. 1,” Mason told the Staten Island Advance before the season. “Everybody’s going to celebrate like it’s their championship game if they beat you. In terms of our preparation, everything we did a year ago won’t be good enough this year. That’s been the mindset.”
In their latest game, the Seahawks traveled to face VCU and held the Rams to just 18 second-half points on 7-of-21 shooting to win 58-44.
Through two games, Alex Morales leads Wagner in both scoring (17.5 points per game) and rebounding (eight per game).
–Field Level Media