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MBB Meets #11/#12 Creighton in Omaha

Sterling Gibbs

Feb. 21, 2014

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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - After a series of near-misses, all the pieces came together for the Seton Hall men’s basketball team on Thursday as the Pirates never trailed in an 82-67 victory over Georgetown at the Prudential Center. Now, following three-consecutive games at home, The Hall heads back out on the road for two-straight. The Pirates make their initial stop in Omaha to visit #11/#12 Creighton (22-4, 12-2) for the first road game with the Bluejays in program history.

Five games remain in the regular season for Seton Hall (14-12, 5-8) who with a win on Thursday completed its first season sweep of Georgetown since 2002-03 to pull within a half game of the Hoyas for seventh in the BIG EAST.

Senior Fuquan Edwin (Paterson, N.J.) was instrumental helping the Pirates snap a three-game slide, torching Georgetown for the second time this season. Edwin delivered 24 points in a 67-57 win in Washington, D.C. in January and followed up by pouring in a game-high 21 on 9-of-13 shooting on Thursday, despite exiting with 10:53 remaining and the game in hand.

The offensive flow that The Hall maintained against a Hoyas team that hangs its hat on the defensive end of the floor was the story of the contest. Seton Hall totaled 20 assists on 27 made field goals, coming up one short of matching the team’s season high set in an 86-69 drubbing of DePaul on Jan. 25. Sterling Gibbs (Scotch Plains, N.J.) and Jaren Sina (Lake Hopatcong, N.J.) deftly dissected the league’s stingiest defense, combining for 28 points and 11 assists with just one turnover among them.

Edwin and Sina also knocked down multiple treys as the Pirates bounced back from a poor long-range shooting performance in a one-point loss against St. John’s by sinking eight 3-pointers. The 3-point line will factor greatly into Sunday’s matchup as Creighton is the top team in the conference from deep and also ranks second in Division I with an average of 10.4 3FGM/game.

In the first meeting between the Bluejays and Pirates on Jan. 4, Creighton nailed 10 treys to help keep The Hall at bay in a 79-66 victory. Since allowing 12 more triples to Villanova in the following game however, The Hall has dramatically improved at defending the arc. Over the last 10 contests, Seton Hall has surrendered more than five 3-pointers just twice, and only Butler connected on at least 40 percent of its attempts (7-of-16, .438 – Jan. 29).

While the matchups on the outside will be a point of emphasis, if The Hall is able to continue to establish a presence on the interior, it could go a long way towards neutralizing the prolific Creighton attack.

Creighton outrebounded the Pirates 38-to-27 in the first matchup, enjoying a 40-to-20 advantage in points in the paint and scoring 19 points off second chances to just two for Seton Hall.

The trio of Patrik Auda (Brno, Czech Republic), Aaron Geramipoor (Manchester, England) and Eugene Teague (Vineland, N.J.) is coming off an outing where they shot a collective 10-of-15 from the field while pulling down 15 of the team’s 33 rebounds, and will be looked upon to more effectively keep the Bluejays off the glass.

Whether he’s getting his points from inside or out, it’s difficult for any opponent to contain the impact that forward Doug McDermott has for the Bluejays. The leading active scorer in the nation, McDermott owns the highest scoring average in the country this season at 25.8 ppg. The forward helped the Bluejays set the tone early in the first meeting, recording 22 first half points to open a gap the Pirates ultimately could not overcome.

One potential way to limit his looks however and slow a high-paced offensive onslaught is to disrupt the Creighton backcourt. Junior Austin Chatman and senior Grant Gibbs are among the top assists men in the league, each ranking in the top-five with 4.3 apg. Add in senior Jahenns Manigat at 3.1 apg and it’s not hard to pinpoint the genesis of the success that Creighton routinely enjoys on the offensive end.

The Pirates have frustrated talented backcourt contingents this season as Edwin and Sterling Gibbs, with support from Sina and Haralds Karlis (Riga, Latvia), have proven capable of locking down – as evidenced by their work over two contests against the vaunted Georgetown tandem of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks.

Creighton seized control of the first meeting because they managed to control the ball.  The Bluejays committed just four turnovers and forced Seton Hall into a half-court game that featured only two fastbreak points between the teams. Led by Edwin, the Pirates are the top team in the BIG EAST in steals and if they can force Creighton out of their comfort zone on Sunday, head coach Kevin Willard’s squad will have a shot at taking home a pivotal upset victory.

The task will be even greater given that the CenturyLink Center Omaha is a difficult place to play. Trips to Omaha have indeed been unkind to visitors as Creighton boasts a perfect 14-0 home record this season and has won 16-straight games at home overall. As for the prospect of being on the road though, The Hall has been unfazed by hostile environments. Seton Hall previously stopped Georgetown’s home winning streak at 16 and halted Xavier’s run at 13, and has picked up three of its five conference victories away from home.

Seton Hall and will take on first-place Creighton on Sunday in the second matchup between the schools as conference foes. Tip-off is slated for 5 p.m. on the east coast and a live telecast will be shown locally on MSG as part of the FOX Sports Networks. Gary Cohen and Dave Popkin call the action for 970 AM (WNYM) and the Pirate Sports Network.