Two years ago Seton Hall ventured out West from its New Jersey home and blazed its way to the NCAA basketball championship game.
The Pirates, out West for the third time in four years, are halfway to the Final Four after disposing of Creighton 81-69 Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Center.Thanks to an impressive second-half explosion, the West's No. 3 seed moves on to meet Arizona, the No. 2 seed Thursday in Seattle.
Anyone who left at halftime of Saturday's game might be surprised that Seton Hall ended up winning by 12. Because at the half, they were trailing by one.On the other hand, anyone who left around with five minutes left, would surprised that Seton Hall won by only 12. That's because during the first 15 minutes of the second half, the Pirates went on 45-17 run that sent most of the 14,869 fans scurrying for the exits.
So what was the difference between the Pirates' first and second halves?
Defense and Terry Dehere.
Seton Hall went to an aggressive man-to-man defense in the second half that surprised Creighton coach Tony Barone, who expected the Pirates to stay in their 1-3-1 zone.
On the other end, it was all Dehere, a sophomore guard who was an first-team all-Big East selection this year. After a quiet first half when he scored just 8 points, Dehere lit it up for 20 points in the second half, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
"I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates because they set screens for me and got the ball to me when I was open. I was just able to make the shot," said Dehere.
Dehere hit his first four shots of the second half when Seton Hall turned the close game into a rout. After hitting an early basket, he reeled off three straight baskets, two from 3-point range to make it 50-38 six minutes into the half. He hit 10 more points, including a couple of more treys before being taken out at the 4:20 mark and his team leading 76-49.
"For 12 to 14 minutes there, that was about as well as we've played this year," said Carlesimo.
In the final four minutes, the Creighton first-teamers made it somewhat respectable against the Pirate reserves, with a 20-5 run to end the game.
Barone took the blame for not having his team properly prepared for the second half.
"We went into the locker room and I spent a ton of time identifying what we wanted to do against the zone," said Barone. "When P.J. came out in an aggressive man-to-man it shocked our kids. That's my fault."
Carlesimo, a good friend of Barone's, said he wasn't doing anything special by switching defenses in the second half.
"We've played man-to-man for 32 games and we haven't played zone more than 30 minutes all year," said Carlesimo. "If it surprised them it was just one of those strange things that happen in a tournament format because you don't know the other team."
The Pirates threatened to run away in the first half, jumping to an 18-11 lead. But the patient Bluejays, going inside to their two stars, Chad Gallagher and Bob Harstad, fought back to take a 24-23 lead. A 3-pointer by reserve Todd Eisner just before the halftime buzzer, gave Creighton a 32-31 halftime lead.
"We knew we had to pick up our intensity in the second half and when you do that, everything starts to click," said Pirate center Anthony Avent, who scored 17 points and had 11 rebounds.
For the game, Creighton shot 40.6 percent, while Seton Hall shot 54 percent, including 64 percent in the decisive second half.
Creighton was led by Gallagher with 17 and Harstad with 13, but they got little help from the guardline.