Friar Basketball

Romaro Gill, Hall Too Much for Providence Inside

Diallo at Seton Hall Providence Athletics

Seton Hall has the likely conference player of the year in Myles Powell, but the man at the center of their current nine game winning streak is the man in the middle — 7’2 Romaro Gill.

Who saw this coming? When Gill signed with Seton Hall out of Vincennes University, a junior college program in Indiana, he was a 22 year old project who averaged a mere five points and five rebounds a game. Kevin Willard’s staff found Gill almost accidentally, seeing him during a junior college tournament in Kansas when scouting his teammates. Gill had no other high major interest when Seton Hall started recruiting him. Georgetown came on late, but at that point the Pirates were far enough along with Gill to hold the newly-hired Patrick Ewing off.

Willard’s staff brought Gill along slowly. He redshirted his first year with the program, as Angel Delgado logged heavy minutes at center. A year ago, Gill showed flashes of becoming one of the better shot blockers in the Big East. He had 14 blocks in a four game stretch against Rutgers, Maryland, Xavier, and Sacred Heart, but had his season somewhat derailed after a four block, three steal effort against Xavier on Jan. 3. He would miss Seton Hall’s next five games, with the Hall going 1-4 during that stretch.

Two games into his return to the floor, Gill stuffed an Isaiah Jackson shot at the buzzer that would have tied a really good game between the Pirates and Providence in Newark last year. He had a three game stretch in which he blocked nine shots in February, but Gill’s minutes were sporadic after the injury.

The 2019-20 Pirates were seen by many as a sneaky Final Four contender. Powell might be the most dangerous shooter in the country, and they returned a veteran core that fell just short against Villanova in the Big East Championship before being unceremoniously bounced by Wofford in the first round of the NCAA tournament a year ago.

Plus, they were adding Florida State transfer Ike Obiagu, a 7’2, 265 pound shot swatter who many figured would be a game changer defensively. Many had him as the newcomer set to make the biggest impact in the Big East this year.

Gill was a bit of a forgotten man last fall on a team with a frontcourt featuring Obiagu, versatile power forward Sandro Mamukelashvili, and Syracuse transfer Taurean Thompson (who fell out of the rotation late last season). Thompson played in just one game this year, Obiagu is a 12 minute a night guy, while an injury to Mamukelashvili was supposed to be crippling.

Yet, Seton Hall is thriving because Gill has exploded (3.4 blocks per game) and freshman big man Tyrese Samuel has been beyond solid.

Gill had scored in double figure just once in his career prior to this January. Over the past six games he’s gone for 17, 11, 10, 17, 14 points, and then last night 17 points, six rebounds, and eight blocks against Providence. He made eight of ten shots from the field and dominated the interior throughout.

Gill certainly benefits from playing alongside point guard Quincy McKnight, who is averaging nearly nine assists per game in conference play, and the attention Powell draws, but regardless, he looks like a lock for the Big East’s Most Improved Player Award and he just might be the best center in the league. Gill’s emergence is a big reason why a Seton Hall team that was 6-4 after a 68-48 loss at Rutgers in December has vaulted into the top 10 nationally over the past month.

Providence had no answer for him on either end on Wednesday night.

***

A few quick notes from last night…

Ed Cooley would have taken his chances if you had told him the Pirates would make just three 3-pointers on the night and Powell would score 14, while PC grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and scored 21 second chance points. The Friars also shot 87% at the free throw line.

Seton Hall dominated on the interior, however, shooting 69% from inside the arc. McKnight torched PC in pick and roll situations all night, finishing with eight assist and three steals. Nearly all of Gill’s finishes were on dunks or alley oops. Statistically, Providence has really struggled to stop the ball handler on pick and roll situations and it really came back to bite them on Wednesday.

McKnight did not make many mistakes early. He drew an offensive foul on Diallo on PC’s first possession, then found Jared Rhoden for a wide open 3-pointer to open the scoring. McKnight then twice found Gill for dunks — first on a lob over the top of the defense that Greg Gantt couldn’t break up in time, and then on an alley oop off of a pick and roll.

Cooley went with a new starting lineup: inserting Nate Watson and Maliek White to play alongside Gantt, Diallo, and David Duke, who was fresh off of a 36 point night at Creighton.

It made no difference in the game’s opening minutes. At the first media timeout, Providence had just one made field goal — a jump shot (and a foul) by Duke, who got McKnight off balance with a swing move and step back. PC’s only other point prior to the initial media break came when McKnight threw the ball almost directly to Gantt, who was fouled on a layup attempt after racing the other way.

Gantt took a team high six foul shots last night.

PC got a big early lift from AJ Reeves, who returned after missing a pair of games with concussion-like symptoms. With the Friars struggling to score early, Reeves swished a corner three at the 13:30 mark of the first half — soon after being inserted into the lineup. Providence had scored one field goal to that point.

Diallo threw the ball out of bounds when trying to find a wide open Reeves earlier in the half. Reeves’s first 3-pointer made it 13-9 Hall, then he hit another corner three after the Hall had taken a 17-11 advantage. Both shots hit nothing but net, as did a top of the key trey from Reeves that was wiped away from a foul just before he rose and fired.

The Friars got next to nothing from deep the rest of the game, finishing 4-24, and missing all of their 3-point attempts after halftime.

Nate Watson shot 4-6 from the field, before fouling out in 15 minutes. Watson finished with 10 points and four rebounds (with three of those boards coming on the offensive end). PC missed a good opportunity early in the first half, as Watson had Gill posted up deep, but Diallo traveled before delivering him a pass. Too often this season it seems as though Watson is getting the ball two to three feet outside of his comfort zone, as was the case on another first half possession in which he dribbled twice trying to back down Gill before grazing the rim on a fadeaway. 43 of Watson’s rebounds this year have been on the offensive side of the ball, which is nearly double his 25 on the defensive end.

Despite shooting 35% from the field and 16% from beyond the arc, PC was down just five with a minute and a half to play against a top ten team on the road. This team competes, but the number of easy looks Seton Hall got, especially when compared to the Friars on Wednesday, was glaring.

2 Comments

  1. rayi

    January 24, 2020 at 7:24 am

    Too bad team did not compete at this level Nov and dec, would have won a lot more games. If had a big time player who could make crucial shots last five minutes of game these close losses would be wins. Still a problem many games with cold shooting to start games and then horrific three point shooting.

  2. Irish Spectre

    January 24, 2020 at 11:07 am

    “Despite shooting 35% from the field and 16% from beyond the arc, PC was down just five with a minute and a half to play against a top ten team on the road. This team competes…”

    The above tells it in a nutshell; they definitely do continue to battle, have not packed it in, which is why they’re in virtually every game in the crucible that is the Big East. The biggest single problem is plain old shooting; Duke (with periodic exceptions) and (especially) Reeves simply have not risen to their promise, and not one Friar shows up every game (or even every other game), though Diallo comes close, but too much is being expected of one man. Hopefully a turnaround is imminent; their backs are seriously against the wall for the postseason now.