NEWARK, NJ - The Seton Hall men’s basketball team opened their season with an 83-72 victory over Niagara on Saturday in the opening round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament at Prudential Center.
Red-shirt guard Sterling Gibbs (Scotch Plains) led the Pirates with 23 points, including 17 from the free-throw line.
“It was great,” Gibbs said. “I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. I think the guys allowed me to get settled into the game and just be able to make plays and do the different things that I like to do.”
The Pirates never trailed in the game, leading by as many as 19 points in the second half. However, Niagara held their ground with the Hall, due in part to the high amount of fouls called on both sides.
The teams combined to commit 73 personal fouls and 102 free-throw attempts. Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard thought it was tough for the team to get into a flow because of constant stoppages due to rule changes.
“I think it’s going to take everybody a little bit of time to adjust,” the Pirates fourth-year head coach said. “Anytime you make such a drastic rule change in any sport it’s going to take a little time.”
Senior forward Fuquan Edwin (Paterson), who is expected to lead the Pirates in scoring, tallied only four points in 20 minutes of action because of early foul trouble.
Edwin said he was just the victim of a tough whistle.
“I think it slowed the pace down,” he said. “I couldn’t really get in my groove. Hopefully as the season continues on, I get the good end of it.”
Because of the fouls, Seton Hall was forced to go deep into the bench. Willard used 12 scholarship athletes in the game, something that has not been done at the Hall in some time.
“It gives you the freedom to play options,” Willard said of his bench play. “I thought all the guys worked hard. If you told me Eugene (Teague) would play eight minutes, Brian (Oliver) would play six, and Fuquan (Edwin) would play 20 and you’ll win I would have thought you were nuts, but that is how this roster is. It’s real balanced.”
Gibbs and the Pirates are back in action on Wednesday when they host Kent State. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Prudential Center.