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MBB Hosts DePaul Saturday

Patrik Auda

Jan. 24, 2014

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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – It has been over two weeks since the Seton Hall men’s basketball team took the floor at home but on Saturday, the Pirates return to the Prudential Center for the first of two meetings with the DePaul Blue Demons.

Second half surges were the story during an extended road swing that saw The Hall (11-8, 2-4 BIG EAST) take one out of three games; sandwiching a pivotal victory at Georgetown between two one-point losses at the hands of Marquette and St. John’s.

The Pirates failed to score 30 points in the first half in all three games but each time, came back in the final stanza to top the 40-point mark - outscoring opponents by an average of over 12 points over the final 20 minutes. A 41-point effort in the second half against the Hoyas helped Seton Hall score its first win of the year when trailing at halftime, but a six-point advantage at intermission proved to be enough for St. John’s to weather the storm on Thursday as head coach Kevin Willard’s squad fell short of earning a last-second win in Queens.

Point guard Sterling Gibbs (Scotch Plains, N.J.) scored 16 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, connecting on 5-of-6 field goals in the period. Gibbs, who has now scored in double-figures in 11-straight appearances, also grabbed six rebounds and doled out four assists to lead the charge in a contest where the Seton Hall starters shouldered the bulk of the offensive duties.

The red-shirt sophomore guard was one of four starters to score in double-figures as the first five combined to score 70 of the team’s 76 points. Senior Brian Oliver (Glassboro, N.J.) did his damage from beyond the arc once again, knocking down five treys as part of a 19-point effort. It was the fifth time this season that Oliver has hit at least five 3-pointers in a single game and the 6-foot-6 swingman will head into Saturday ranked second in the conference with an average of 3.3 treys/game.

Fuquan Edwin (Paterson, N.J.) found the mark on five of his seven field goal attempts and finished with 12 points while Patrik Auda (Brno, Czech Republic) added 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds; helping the Pirates out-rebound their opponent for the first time in BIG EAST play.

Rebounding opportunities were scarce as both teams converted on over 50 percent of their field goals but it was the St. John’s attack that won the battle of efficiency as the Red Storm totaled 17 assists against only 11 turnovers while The Hall assisted on only eight of its 25 made shots and gave the ball away 19 times.

The Pirates did however continue to show an improved defensive presence on the perimeter, holding the Red Storm to 3-of-12 from deep with forward Orlando Sanchez accounting for all three makes. The effort closed a three-game stretch in which Seton Hall limited Marquette, Georgetown and St. John’s to a collective 10-of-45 (.222) mark on 3-point attempts while connecting on nearly 46 percent (28-of-61, .459) of its own 3-pointers.

Coming off their third one-point defeat of the season, the Pirates draw a DePaul team whom it defeated by a single point (73-72) in the lone meeting between the squads last season. Big men Brandon Mobley (Savannah, Ga.) and Eugene Teague (Vineland, N.J.) posted a set of double-doubles in the game to help lift The Hall to a road win in what was the conference opener for both teams.

The Blue Demons (10-10. 2-5 BIG EAST) went on to win just two games in conference last year, their third under head coach Oliver Purnell, but have already matched that total by notching victories over at Butler and against St. John’s at home in the first month of league play.

Both of those wins came in a row – giving DePaul its first set of consecutive BIG EAST wins since 2008 – but have been followed by a current two-game slide that includes an 84-74 loss to Xavier at home last time out (1/20).

Senior forward Cleveland Melvin and guard Brandon Young are each among the best players in the conference at their position, but the two veterans have received reinforcements this season in the form of the dynamic freshman duo of Billy Garrett Jr. and Tommy Hamilton IV. Led by Melvin who stands seventh in the conference at 16.7 points per game, the quartet has combined to account for over 70 percent of the team’s offensive output on the season.

Young (14.1 ppg) also ranks among the top-15 scorers in the conference and his 4.0 assists per contest are sixth-best in the BIG EAST while solid all-around play from Garrett and Hamilton have netted them a combined five BIG EAST Rookie of the Week awards.

Despite the added talent, DePaul has still struggled defensively and currently rates dead last in the league in points allowed per game (73.7) and field goal percentage defense (.462). The Blue Demons are also the only team in the conference who has a higher number of turnovers than assists to this point in the season and newly-minted Seton Hall all-time steals leader Fuquan Edwin and company will be eager to capitalize and create easy opportunities as they aim for their first BIG EAST home win of the season.

Seton Hall will look to improve upon its 9-3 all-time advantage over DePaul when the two teams tip-off tomorrow at the Prudential Center. Start-time is slated for 6 p.m. and the CBS Sports Network will carry a live national telecast while Gary Cohen and Dave Popkin will have the call for Seton Hall radio on 970 AM (WNYM).