Georgia Basketball: Seton Hall to Provide Big Test for Bulldogs


A hungry Seton Hall basketball team brings a taste of the Big East to the Stegeman Coliseum Sunday.

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Date: 12/21/2014
Tipoff Time: 6:00 PM
Venue: Stegeman Coliseum, Athens GA
Radio: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network from IMG, in Atlanta WSB (750 AM) and WSBB (95.5 FM). In Athens: WRFC (AM 960)

History: Seton Hall College was founded 1856 in South Orange NJ. Named for Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American born saint, Seton Hall University is the oldest U. S. diocesan university and enrolls 5500 students.

Coach: Kevin Willard is the second Rick Pitino protégé to face the Georgia basketball team this year (son Richard Pitino coached Minnesota to a 66 -62 victory over Georgia in New York.)

Willard served six years as a Louisville assistant and four years as a Boston Celtics coaching associate for Pitino. Ralph Willard, Kevin Willard’s father, also worked for Pitino as an assistant coach on three different teams. He also successfully led the Western Kentucky, Pitt, and Holy Cross mens basketball programs.

Kevin Willard became the 19th Seton Hall head coach in March 2010 after leading the Iona College men’s basketball program for three years.

Last year: Seton Hall was 17 – 17 last year, 6 – 12 in the Big East. Not great, but the Pirates did defeat Butler and Villanova in the Big East Tournament.

This year: Despite pedestrian showings last year and in 2012 – 2013 (15-18, 3-15) Seton Hall gained national respect on the strength of its five man 2014 recruiting class, ranked in the top 15 nationally by most pundits. Willard braved the city to sign Brooklyn’s Rivals 5 star guard Isaiah Whitehead (6’4″ 210) and worked in-state to nab Rivals 4 star power forward Angel Delgado (6’9″ 230). USA-Today’s Scott Gleason predicts a fourth place Big East finish and a 12 NCAA Tourney seed.

The road to the NCAA Tourney will be bumpy as the talented freshman will not plug into an established roster. Seton Hall lost last season’s top scorer, Fuguan Edwin, and fellow starters Eugene Teague and Brian Olliver. Inexperience gives Georgia and other key early season opponents weaknesses to exploit.

Seton Hall is 8-1 on the season with close wins against Illinois State (84-80) and George Washington (58-54). The Pirates easily handled Rutgers as well. In its biggest out of conference test, Wichita State schooled Seton Hall 77 – 68.

Dec 2, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; Seton Hall Pirates guard Sterling Gibbs (4) brings the ball up court during the second half against the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers at the Prudential Center. Seton Hall Pirates defeat the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers 78-55. Mandatory Credit: Jim O’Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Both Georgia and Seton Hall have one or two quality wins out of three or four opportunities. With both teams expected to finish in the upper division of their conference, Sunday’s match up is huge for NCAA aspirations.

Despite the freshman talent, junior guard Sterling Gibbs (6’2″ 185) leads Seton Hall in scoring with 17 points per game. Freshman guard Whitehead is averaging 13 points a game but has 29 turnovers and this is where the Dawg defense will start.

A Rivals national 16 2014 recruit. Rivals Eric Bossi calls Whitehead, “May be the best one on one player in the class of 2014.” Georgia must make Whitehead play more like a freshman and less like a five-star recruit by minimizing his talent and maximizing his inexperience. The big Pirate rebounder is the freshman Delgado with 10 per game. Senior power forward Brandon Mobley (6’9″ 210) is scoring 11 points game.

Mobley played his high school ball at Groves High in Savannah before prepping at St. John’s Northwest Military Academy in Wisconsin. Headlining a classic drama in the paint, Mobley will no doubt play inspired ball in front of friends and family as he battles fellow senior bell cow Marcus Thornton for the Dawgs.

Scenes featuring the highly touted power forward Delgado of Seton Hall and the unheralded power forward Yante Maten of Georgia thicken the plot in the post.

To the Gibbs, Whitehead, Mobley, Delgado quartet is added sophomore guard Jaren Sina (6’2″ 185) to make up the Seton Hall starting five.

Georgia will start Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines, Juwan Parker, Marcus Thornton and Nemi Djurisc.

Statistically, the teams are similar. Georgia shoots free throws better, 68% to Seton Hall’s 64%. Seton Hall scores two more points per game, 72 – 74.

Georgia’s success will swing on a combination of factors:

  • How much and how well can Kenny Gaines play. (Gaines sprained a shoulder in the Dawgs’ win over Colorado on December 7.)
  • Charles Manns’ turnovers and assists.
  • Marcus Thornton’s success against Mobley of the Pirates.
  • The inside play of prize Seton Hall freshman power forward Angel Delgado.
  • Three point shooting of Seton Hall’s Sterling Gibbs.

Kenny Gaines simply must play for Georgia to beat Seton Hall. Charles Mann has been trending positive, earning 17 assists and committing 13 turnovers in his last four games, and he is working to pass the ball effectively out of his frequent drives. Marcus Thornton has been a horse throughout the young season and there is no reason to believe he can’t handle his opposite number, Mobley.

Ultimately, the Yante Maten and Nemi Djurisic defense of Seton Hall’s prize post recruit, Delgado, will determine if Georgia’s guards can stay in the face of the Pirate’s Gibbs, a plus 50% three- point shooter, as well as help each other with freshman Whitehead. If so, it is a big out of conference win for Georgia basketball and another step toward the NCAA Tourney.

Next: Will Georgia's Hoops Recruiting Wins Equal Success on the Court?