Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Seton Hall Wins Big East Opener for Injured Teague
By BRENDAN McGAIR
Special to ZAGSBLOGPROVIDENCE, R.I. – Given everything Seton Hall has been through the past few days, the battle cry heading into Tuesday’s Big East opener at Providence needed little explanation.
Win it for Eugene Teague.
“We wanted to do something special for Eugene. When one of your family members goes down … it’s been a crazy couple of days,” said Pirates head coach Kevin Willard following his team’s 81-80 double-OT win.
Teague sat on the bench after the senior big man sustained a concussion during the Pirates’ contest against Lafayette last Friday. Seton Hall officials officially list Teague as day-to-day, though the possibility exists that he could return to the floor in time for Saturday’s home date with Creighton.
Taking the floor minus Teague’s leadership and production, Willard had a simple request of his players as they prepared to face Providence in a matchup of two founding members of the Big East Conference.
“All I wanted for these guys was to go out and give it their all,” Willard simply stated.
The coach’s message did not go unheeded as the Pirates survived a double-overtime tussle. Sterling Gibbs was one of several heroes on the afternoon for Seton Hall, the reserve sophomore swishing four free throws in the final 9.3 seconds of the second OT to propel Willard & Co. to a good start in league play.
Gibbs was one of three Pirates to play 40 minutes or more. He came off the bench to score 15 points in 43 minutes with Brian Oliver leading the way with 18 points on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point land. Oliver logged 45 minutes while Brandon Mobley netting 16 points in 46 minutes.
“For Brian and Brandon to play that many minutes and Gibbs playing 43 coming off a knee injury, I’m ecstatic at what these guys were able to do,” said Willard.
Willard expected that the Pirates would be at lost at times minus Teague, who normally provided 10.8 ppg and 9.4 rebounds. Seton Hall trailed by seven points midway through the first half but regrouped to go up by a dozen with 12:45 remaining in regulation.
“We’re used to throwing the ball to a 6-foot-9 beast who can’t be stopped. Eugene creates a lot of offense for us,” said Willard. “When you don’t have that, you become stagnant. When you take that away, even I was stumped in terms of what to run.”
The Pirates managed just seven points in the final 12:35 of the second half. Willard attributes the slump to the absence of forward Patrik Auda, who sat with foul trouble.
“We don’t have a lot we can run offensively,” said Willard. “I think we only had two plays we could run that the guys knew. All we tried to do was just pick-and-roll, create space and get fouled because no one else knew what to do.”
Given everything they’ve been up against recently, the Pirates were thrilled to come away with a win in their league opener.
“It’s big time,” said Gibbs. “Just to get our first win in the Big East, we wanted to start off well and get a little momentum to try and make a run.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.