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Notebook: Rutgers dominated inside, on boards in loss to Seton Hall

<p>Senior center C.J. Gettys goes up for a lay-up in Rutgers' 72-61 loss to Seton Hall at the Prudential Center on Friday night.&nbsp;</p>

Senior center C.J. Gettys goes up for a lay-up in Rutgers' 72-61 loss to Seton Hall at the Prudential Center on Friday night. 

NEWARK, N.J. — Earlier in the week Angel Delgado said Seton Hall would beat the Rutgers men's basketball team even if the Scarlet Knights were the No. 1 team in the country.

The junior center had good reason to be overly confident heading into the Pirates' Friday night matchup with their in-state rival, as Seton Hall had taken the last three meetings overall with the previous two wins coming by an average of a whopping 28 points.

And when his team trailed the visiting Knights 32-23 at the half, Delgado put on the kind of second-half performance that was needed to back up his words and continue the Pirates' recent dominance over Rutgers.

Delgado scored a team-high 15 points and pulled down eight rebounds in the second half to propel Seton Hall to a late 72-61 win over Rutgers in the Garden State Hardwood Classic at the Prudential Center

The junior center earned the game's Most Valuable Player honors for the second consecutive year after finishing with 19 points and 16 rebounds, pacing a Seton Hall attack inside that out-rebounded Rutgers 48-36, corralled 17 offensive rebounds and scored 19 second-chance points. 

"(Angel Delgado) is a really good player. I watched every tape on him," said head coach Steve Pikiell. "We had enough big guys, we just kept running big guys at him. I didn't want him to get it in spaces where he was comfortable. I thought we did a good job in the first half. ... He got us on a lot of second shots, which we talked about at length. His best strength is rebounding the basketball and he's a terrific passer. So he poses a lot of problems for you when he catches it in the post."

Led by senior center C.J. Gettys and junior forward Deshawn Freeman, Rutgers entered the game third in the nation in total rebounding margin and tied for fourth in total rebounds per game.

But the Knights were dominated early and often by Delgado and his fellow front-court mate Ismael Sanogo, who finished with five offensive rebounds and 16 total boards of his own. 

With Seton Hall unable to buy a bucket in the first half, while shooting at a 24 percent clip, Delgado asserted his presence on the boards by pulling down 4 of Seton Hall's 10 offensive rebounds in the opening frame. With a sputtering offense, the Pirates' nine second-chance points were key in keeping Rutgers within striking distance at the half. 

"Coach preached about how they have a good offensive rebounder in (Delgado)," Freeman said. "The main focus was just getting rebounds and trying to put a stop on him and the rest of the other guys. First half we were strong and second half we gave up too many points."

While he was dominating the boards, Delgado was struggling to convert on his looks from in close, connecting on just 2 of his 10 shots from the field in the first half. 

But that inefficiency from inside wouldn't last.

With Sanogo, who pulled down all five of his offensive rebounds over the final 20 minutes of action, leading the charge on the glass, Delgado shifted his dominance from the boards to the low block, as he found his shooting stroke from around the rim. 

With Seton Hall trailing Rutgers 39-37 with over 14 minutes remaining, Delgado would go on to score 14 of the Pirates' next 20 points as they stormed ahead of the Knights and held on for the win. 

And Delgado was not only strengthening Seton Hall with his dominating play, but also weakening Rutgers in the process. 

The Knights committed 18 fouls in the second half, putting the Pirates in the double bonus with over seven minutes remaining. All four of Rutgers' bigs to play major minutes—Gettys, Freeman, freshman Candido Sa and sophomore Ibrahima Diallo— each finished the game with at least four fouls. Gettys fouled out after just 16 minutes of action.

Delgado played a huge role in the Knights' foul troubles down the stretch, as he made 9 of Seton Hall's 20 trips to the charity stripe in the second half. 

Regardless of who the Knights threw his way in the second half, Delgado was simply too much to handle.

"He's very tough," said junior guard Nigel Johnson of Delgado. "He's a strong, skilled big man. He's not a horrible athlete either. So when you got that, it's kind of hard to stop. He got that right hook down pat. He was definitely a tough matchup tonight."

The Pirates' control over the paint on offense held true on the other end of the court as well.

Rutgers' 61 points tied for its lowest output of the season, with the Knights scoring the same amount in their only other loss to Miami. While Rutgers was able to get to the line 28 times, it mustered just 18 points in the paint. That number was limited by their six offensive rebounds, which turned into six second-chance points. 

For an offense that generates most of its points from the inside, baskets were tough to come by for the Knights. Freeman and Gettys combined for 11 points on 2 of 11 shooting from the field, one offensive rebound and eight turnovers. Gettys didn't record a single rebound on the night, as Delgado stifled the graduate transfer's post-up game on one end and got him into foul trouble on the other. 

Delgado's interior presence forced Pikiell to go deeper into his rotation than he usually would. In addition to Gettys, Freeman and Sa each playing 16-plus minutes, Ibrahima Diallo was surprisingly thrusted into action as well. 

After playing just 26 total minutes across four games this season, Diallo not only logged 18 minutes, but was productive in his extended run. The sophomore pulled down four rebounds and blocked three shots. 

While it came in a losing effort, Pikiell was pleased to see Diallo respond with a strong performance after sitting on the bench for almost all of non-conference action. 

"We were definitely playing him because of the matchup," Pikiell said of Diallo. "It's a top of the hat to him. I always tell every one to stay ready. I'll play anyone at any time. He's a perfect example and it bodes well for our whole roster. Just be ready and you never know when your number's called. His number was called tonight and he played well. I was real pleased and happy for him. Mental toughness and physical toughness is something we preach and he's had it sitting on the bench not playing a lot and being able to respond tonight and get some good playing time."

For updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @EricMullin_ and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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