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MBB: Can the Hall Shock the Shockers?

Whitehead/USA Today

Whitehead/USA Today

The Seton Hall University men’s basketball team will host Wichita State on Saturday afternoon at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

The matchup will be Seton Hall’s first real test of the season, and is considered by many to be the biggest non-conference matchup hosted in Newark since the arena opened nine years ago. It is also a chance for the Pirates to make a statement.

The Hall enters Saturday with an 8-2 record and is riding a three-game winning streak. A young Pirates nucleus has found its stride as conference play approaches, while the 5-4 Shockers are regaining form that landed them in the AP Top 10 preseason poll.

Seton Hall has claimed three in-a-row, including the first two of a current four-game home-stand behind the play of a spectacular group of underclassmen that has accounted for over 80 percent of the team’s scoring, rebounds and assists.

The Pirates will roll into “the Rock” on Saturday led by sophomore Phenom Isaiah Whitehead. The Brooklyn native has posted a team-high 15.0 ppg during the recent three-game streak and is fresh off a 10-point, 10-rebound effort in a convincing win over Saint Peter’s last Sunday. Whitehead will be joined by classmate Angel Delgado, who has put together a streak of three consecutive double-doubles.

Whitehead also tallied a game-high 23 points against the Shockers last December as the two teams clashed in Kansas. Whitehead is one of just three players to rank among the top-10 in the BIG EAST in points, assists and steals.

Along with Whitehead and Delgado, sophomores Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez and red-shirt freshman Mike Nzei have been in the starting lineup for the last two contests and are also averaging in double-figures during the winning streak as balance and consistency has lifted The Hall to its fourth 10-game start of 8-2 or better in the last five years.

It will take another shared effort on Saturday for The Hall to slow a Wichita State team that routed then-No. 25 Utah, 67-50, in its last outing. The return of All-American guard Fred VanVleet has directly impacted a three-game unbeaten streak after the Shockers dropped all three games against Division I opponents while the senior was sidelined with an injury.

VanVleet and standout Ron Baker comprise one of the top backcourt tandems in the nation and have helped usher in an unprecedented era of success for the program as the Shockers have recorded 30+ wins in each of the last three seasons. Their aggressive play on the perimeter is key on both ends of the floor but particularly defensively where WSU ranks seventh in the nation by forcing a turnover on nearly 25 percent of opponents possessions and is yielding just 63.0 ppg.

If the Pirates can neutralize VanVleet and Baker, the team from South Orange can make a strong statement and have its first ever win against the Shockers.

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