Jan. 31, 2014
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – The Seton Hall men’s basketball team heads to Cincinnati as the Pirates prepare to wrap up the first half of the BIG EAST slate with their first-ever conference tilt with the Xavier Musketeers.
Following two games at home in which The Hall (12-9, 3-5) earned a split with DePaul and Butler, the trip to the Cintas Center will be the first of two-consecutive road games before Seton Hall returns for three-in-a-row at home in the middle of February.
A preseason Second Team All-BIG EAST selection prior to the start of the 2013-14 campaign, senior Fuquan Edwin (Paterson, N.J.) has returned to the form that has made him one of the premier two-way players in the league. He has averaged 25.0 points per game, while shooting 55.9 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from beyond the arc over the Pirates’ recent two-game home-stand. Edwin also registered seven steals in the two contests, pushing his league-leading total to 53 in 17 appearances to this point in the year.
At 3.1 steals per game, he ranks third in the nation and there is only one other BIG EAST player (Alex Barlow, Butler) who is averaging as many as 2.0/game.
Classmate Eugene Teague (Vineland, N.J.) has also been steadily increasing his production since returning from a concussion that forced him out of the first four conference contests for The Hall. Against DePaul and Butler, Teague connected on 10-of-13 (.769) field goal attempts and has now converted on over 65.0 percent in 10 of his last 12 appearances. Teague sits atop the league rankings with a .619 shooting percentage for the season and also leads the conference with an average of 3.5 offensive rebounds per game.
With Teague back manning the middle and an offensive attack that has seen more balance in recent games, the Pirates have scored nearly 35 points per game from the painted area over the last three contests after coming in under 30 points from in close in each of their first five conference games. The increase can be attributed to repeated forays to the hoop from Edwin and Sterling Gibbs (Scotch Plains, N.J.) and the steady support Teague has received from Patrik Auda (Brno, Czech Republic) (9 points, 6 rebounds vs. DePaul) and Brandon Mobley (Savannah, Ga.) who is coming off his second double-double of the year after posting 10 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high five blocks against Butler on Wednesday.
On the road in conference play, the Pirates have also proven an ability to shoot from long range – averaging 9.0 3-pointers/game in four BIG EAST games away from home - but establishing a foothold inside will be key for Seton Hall against a Xavier squad that is the top rebounding group in the league. The Musketeers enter Saturday’s contest with the second-highest field goal percentage (.475) in the BIG EAST.
Xavier (15-5, 5-2) is unbeaten in 12 home games this season, including wins over St. John’s, Butler, Marquette and Georgetown that have come by an average margin in excess of 10 points. Sophomore Semaj Christon is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the conference, ranking sixth in the BIG EAST at 17.0 points per game, while shooting nearly 50.0 percent from the floor from his guard position. Not just a scorer however, Christon and junior backcourt-mate Dee Davis are the top duo league-wide in terms of assists, each ranking top-seven with averages of 3.9 and 4.7 assists per game respectively. Last time out for Xavier however, Christon and Davis were limited to a combined 20 points, 18 of which came from the sophomore, as Providence handed the Musketeers an 81-72 loss on the road.
6-foot-10 junior Matt Stainbrook narrowly missed his fifth double-double of the year against the Friars, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds in defeat. Stainbrook has been a standout for head coach Chris Mack in his first year of action since transferring from Western Michigan, anchoring the Xavier front line while ranking in the top-six in the league in rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots.
Saturday’s matchup could prove to be one of the more fast-paced games of the BIG EAST season as Seton Hall and Xavier come in averaging an identical 75.8 points per game. The Pirates and Musketeers are also two of the top-three 3-point shooting teams in the league, while rating near the bottom of the conference in defending the long range shot.
The Hall has not allowed more than five treys in four conference road games though so if head coach Kevin Willard’s squad can continue to defend the perimeter and hang tough on the boards; the Pirates stand to put an end to a lengthy home winning streak for the third time this month.
Seton Hall’s two conference road wins have come at Providence (12/31) and at Georgetown (1/18), two teams who held winning streaks of 13 and 16 on their respective home floors before falling to the Pirates.
The Pirates will look to halt a string of 13-consecutive wins at the Cintas Center for Xavier when the two teams tip-off Saturday at Noon. Tune in to the CBS Sports Network for a live national telecast or listen to Gary Cohen and Jon Schaeffer call the action for 970 AM (WNYM) and the Pirate Sports Network on SHUPirates.com.