NEWARK, NJ - Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard thought the worst after last Sunday's loss to Providence. Not only did his team fall to a then winless Friar team. but Willard's starting power forward, Brandon Mobley, went down with an apparent dislocated shoulder.
10 days later, all is well in Pirate-land as Mobley and forward Brian Oliver both returned on Wednesday, leading Seton Hall to a 55-47 victory over the University of South Florida.
"It was a very crucial win," Willard said. "The Providence loss really hurt. At the end of the day, if we beat Providence, we'd be looking at 3-3 and 2-3 going into this game. That's why I'm looking forward to getting this team healthy."
The addition of Mobley and Oliver to the lineup, gave Seton Hall the needed depth they lacked in the last month.
Coming off the bench, they were a combined 10-for-11 from the floor with Mobley scoring 14 points and Oliver racking up nine on three deep balls.
"For only practicing for two days and having to get used to the shoulder brace, I think [the game] was pretty good. At the end of the game, getting the stop, it was all about winning. It sucks when your losing then you have to deal with the coaches and the media. We just pulled it together and got a win."
After the game, there were no worries from either Mobley or Oliver.
Oliver said he was virtually painless, though he was surprised that he didn't feel "banged up."
Even though Mobley had a large ice pack on his right shoulder and played with a brace during the game, the sophomore forward was quick to deny the rumors of a more serious injury.
"I feel good," Mobley said. "They had it wrong. It never dislocated the first time. What happened was, when I had surgery during the first time, they put six sutures to tie my labrum down and one of the sutures came out. It wasn't dislocated."
While it is expected that either Mobley or Oliver will return to the starting role as the power forward, Willard had high praise for sophomore forward Haralds Karlis who played out-of-position with the shortened roster.
"Haralds is starting to play at a good speed," Willard said. "When he slows down a little bit, he's very effective. He plays with great energy. I think it will help him to get back to the small forward spot and not get swallowed up by the power forwards…I think he's battling and really giving us good minutes."
Karlis finished with only two points, but his presence was felt. He jumpstarted the Pirates offense in the opening minutes when he stole the ball at center court and took it the distance with a slam dunk, leading the Hall to a 10-4 run to open the game.
Junior Fuquan Edwin led all scorers with 16 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the year.
Despite the joyous feeling the Seton Hall's locker room following Wednesday's win, Edwin, Oliver and the rest of the Pirates know there is still work to be done.
The Hall will head across the Hudson River on Sunday when they face St. John's at Madison Square Garden. The Red Storm are coming off a win at Rutgers on Wednesday and have been victorious in their last three games.
Oliver, who missed last year's games at Garden due to transfer regulations, is excited about the opportunity to play at the World's Most Famous Arena.
"I'm really excited to play at Madison Square Garden," he said. "Its always been a dream of mine to play there."
Tip-off from Manhattan is scheduled for noon.