NEWARK, NJ - The Seton Hall Pirates avoided a second straight late-game disaster against NJIT on Tuesday night at Prudential Center.
Faced with the notion of seeing another double-digit lead fall by the wayside, graduate-transfer guard Kyle Smyth took it upon himself to put the Highlanders away, scoring 10 points in the second half, leading the Hall to a 68-59 win over the Highlanders.
"He's a great glue guy," Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said. "He's a guy everybody likes playing with because when you pass to him he gets an assist. He was valuable the second he stepped on practice."
The Pirates led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but after the Highlander's Chris Flores hit his fifth three-pointer of the game to cut Seton Hall's lead to four with two minutes to play, the Pirates needed an answer on offense.
Smyth lined himself up in the corner on the Pirates' ensuing possession. After getting a pass from junior forward Fuquan Edwin, the graduate guard hit his fourth three-pointer while getting fouled, putting the Hall up eight after he made the free-throw, essentially ending NJIT's comeback hopes.
"Fuquan made a great drive, late in the shot clock," Smyth said. "The defender helped just enough that (Edwin) found me. I just have to make the shot, that's all."
Making shots was hard to come for the Pirates in the second half. Despite shooting 41 percent in the final period, NJIT made key adjustments on Edwin, forcing the Pirates to find other ways of scoring. Willard said his team needs to understand who they are to be successful.
"That starting unit needs to understand who they are and who is on the floor," he said. "That starting unit needs to get Fuquan (Edwin) and Eugene Teague the basketball and feed off of those guys. They aren't doing that right now. That's something we need to address, because we need Fuquan to get going."
Teague took only eight shots in the game, scoring on five of his opportunities for 12 points and pulled down six rebounds. The Pirates as a team were out-rebounded by NJIT 43-40.
Teague said its hard getting rebounds in the zone defense they play.
"I don't know what to say about that," Teague said. "They were shooting a lot of three's, so they were getting a lot of long rebounds. It was just one of those games."
The Pirates have been beat on the boards in every game except the Saint Peter's win since forward Patrik Auda was injured. Smyth said everyone on the team is going to have to step up to fill the void left by Auda.
"Patrik is a great player and losing him never helps," Smyth said. "[Boxing out is] something he did a great job of, making sure he put a body on people to them box out. That's something simple that goes unnoticed sometimes. That's something that we miss but at this point it is what it is. We need to pick up the slack, its a team effort."
Seton Hall will return to floor on Saturday when they plat at Wake Forest. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.