INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard kept it simple at halftime Wednesday.
He needed Myles Powell to be more aggressive, 7-foot-2 Romaro Gill to become a bigger presence in the post and Quincy McKnight to execute the plan flawlessly.
All of it worked.
Powell and Gill combined for 34 second-half points, McKnight finished with a career high 13 assists and the Pirates overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to pull away from No. 5 Butler 78-70.
“When you have the best player in America and he’s able to get you 40 every night, you better hedge and do all of that,” Willard said. Ï think what Myles and our team understand better now is where (Powell) is going to get doubled and then, when you have someone like Romaro, you just throw it up to him.”
Even Butler’s usually stout defense didn’t have an answer for the dynamic duo of Powell, who had 29 points, and Gill, who matched his career high with 17. McKnight added 11 points and seven rebounds and had only one turnover in more than 35 minutes.
Together, they helped Seton Hall score 48 points in the second half — against a defense that was allowing 54.4 points per game — and extend their winning streak to seven. The Pirates (13-4, 5-0 Big East) are the only conference team with a perfect record in league play.
On paper, it looks like their most impressive win all season. They’ve now beaten two top 10 teams, Maryland at home and Butler on the road.
Kamar Baldwin had 19 points and six assists to lead the Bulldogs (15-2, 3-1). Jordan Tucker finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds as Butler’s six-game winning streak ended.
“That’s one of those environments, one of those games that’s why they come to Butler for games like that,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “It was a high level basketball game and at the end of the day they had some guys step up and make some plays.”
Actually, they had three guys making play after play.
With Powell, Gill and McKnight leading the way, Seton Hall quickly cut a 40-30 halftime deficit to five.
Gill then scored nine points during in a 15-6 run, capped by Powell’s 3-pointer with 8:14 left, giving the Pirates a 58-57 lead.
Instead, Powell delivered the finishing touch by spurring a 13-4 run to close out the game.
“We got a little simpler on pick-and-roll coverage and I think that helped him (Gill) out a little bit because it freed him up,” Willard said. “We were doing everything.”
Seton Hall: The Pirates showed some real grit Wednesday. After opening the game with five baskets in the first four minutes and then only making six the rest of the half, they rebounded with a dynamic second-half performance, on the road. If Seton Hall continues playing this way, they will continue to climb in the rankings.
Butler: The Bulldogs struggled defensively to start the game before appearing to right themselves. But they couldn’t avoid fouls, lost their shooting touch and struggled to match up with Seton Hall’s size. While it could be an aberration, it’s a problem Jordan and the Bulldogs must solve before this tape becomes the blueprint for opponents.
Seton Hall: Jared Rhoden had 13 points while Powell made five 3s and Gill had three blocks. … Seton Hall has won five consecutive conference games in the same season for the first time since 2008-09 and has won three of its last four games at Hinkle Fieldhouse. … The Pirates had held their previous 13 opponents below their scoring average. That streak ended Wednesday.
Butler: Sean McDermott had 11 points as the Bulldogs were 6 of 21 on 3s. … Point guard Aaron Thompson fouled out with 6:28 to play, finishing with six points and three assists. … Despite struggling in the post and giving up a season-high point total, Butler still won the rebounding battle 36-34 Still won the rebounding battle 36-34. … Butler fell to 9-1 at home, playing on their home court for the first time as a top-five team since Hinkle Fieldhouse opened in 1928.
Seton Hall: “If you don’t neutralize Aaron Thompson he’s gonna get you because he’s also a high level defender,” Willard said.
Butler: “When we lacked it (execution), they made us pay and that’s what good teams do,” Jordan said.
Seton Hall completes a two-game road trip Saturday at St. John’s.
Butler visits DePaul on Saturday, starting a two-game road trip.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25