No. 10 Seton Hall will attempt to build on a pair of significant milestones when it opens a three-game homestand against Big East Conference rival Providence on Wednesday.
Player of the year candidate Myles Powell became the fifth player in Seton Hall history to reach 2,000 points when he scored29 in an 82-79 victory over St. John's on Saturday. It helped the Pirates (14-4) extend their winning streak to eight games and improve to 6-0 in the Big East for the first time in school history.
Third-place Providence (11-8, 4-2) will attempt to get back on track after losing two of three, the most recent a 78-74 loss at Creighton on Saturday despite guard David Duke's career-high 36 points.
"Everybody is buying in right now," Powell said, according to Big East Shootaround. "When you have a group of guys that buys in and wants to win, you find yourself on top. Nobody cares who's doing it, how it is getting done. As long as we keep that up, we're going to keep winning and be happy at the end of the year."
Make no mistake, Powell has been the ringleader of the Pirates' surge into the Top 10. He scored 23 of his 29 points in the second half against St. John's and had 19 of his 29 in the second half of a 78-70 victory at Butler on Wednesday. The Pirates trailed by 13 against St. John's and 10 against Butler.
Only No. 4 San Diego State (19 straight), No. 1 Baylor (14), No. 2 Gonzaga (12) and No. 5 Florida State (nine) have longer winning streaks than the Pirates, whose losses have been to Michigan State, Oregon, Iowa State and Rutgers.
Powell, a 6-foot-2 senior, suffered a concussion in the first half of a 68-48 loss to Rutgers on Dec. 14, and second-leading scorer Sandro Mamukelashvili suffered a fractured wrist in the loss to Iowa State. Coach Kevin Willard said it is "realistic" that Mamukelashvili could return for the DePaul game Jan. 29.
"We've played a lot of great teams," Powell said. "I don't really think there is anything that anyone can throw at us in the country that is going to knock us off. We've pretty much seen anything. We're battled-tested. We're ready."
Powell is averaging 22.4 points, eighth in Division I, and 5.1 rebounds a game. Quincy McKnight is averaging 11.4 after scoring 20 against St. John's.
Pirates' 7-foot-2 senior center Romaro Gill had his second career double-double - 14 points, 13 rebounds - and tied a career high with six blocked shots against St. John's. Gill, who has become a pick-and-roll threat, has scored in double figures in five straight games after only one previous such game in his career.
Providence had won five of six, losing only to Butler, before falling at Creighton despite Duke's best efforts. Duke had 24 points in the second half and scored the Friars' final 13 points, including three 3-pointers, for a 74-69 lead with 1:41 remaining.
Seton Hall will be the second of four straight ranked opponents for the Friars, and coach Ed Cooley called the Pirates, "to me, the best team in the country."
"We can't let this (Creighton) game beat us," he said. "We have to respond and rebound."
Alpha Diallo a 6-7 senior, leads the Friars with 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. Duke, a 6-5 sophomore, had a career-high six 3-pointers against the Bluejays after being shut out from the field and scoring only seven points in victory over St. John's on Wednesday. He has had four 20-point games and six single-digit games.
"David is the hardest-working player I've ever coached," Cooley said. "He's in the gym morning, noon and night, and I'm happy for him that it's paying off. You can't cheat the game, and he doesn't."
--Field Level Media