INDIANAPOLIS (AP)Jared Rhoden scored 17 points, Alexis Yetna had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and No. 24 Seton Hall beat Butler 71-56 on Tuesday night.
Bryce Aiken added 12 points and seven assists for the Pirates (10-3, 1-2 Big East), who avoided their first 0-3 start in league play since 2009-10. Seton Hall has won four of its past six at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
”We have some sixth-year seniors, a bunch of fifth-year seniors, so we’ve got a lot of guys that have played in really tough environments,” coach Kevin Willard said. ”You have a lot of guys who have won in Hinkle throughout their years. Jared Rhoden hit a game-winning shot in this building. We decided to keep our composure.”
The Pirates went nearly three weeks without a full practice because of COVID-19 concerns.
”We get sick a lot,” Willard said. ”We can catch some COVID. Not practicing for 15 days is really, really hard. For them to kind of battle, Rhoden had COVID and he’s out here playing 32 minutes a game, so they’re showing great heart.”
Bryce Golden scored 20 points for Butler (8-5, 1-1), and fellow big man Bryce Nze added 12 points. The Bulldogs were outrebounded 36-25 even though Seton Hall played without Tyrese Samuel, who averages 10.8 points and 6.9 boards.
Seton Hall fell behind 16-9 early but responded with a 15-2 run. The Pirates led 34-26 at halftime and controlled the second half, making timely shots each time the announced crowd of 7,234 began to get noisy.
”They picked up their energy midway through the first half where we didn’t match,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. ”I thought we had good starts to both halves. It’s just sustaining. We always say tougher team sets the rules.”
Yetna’s 3-pointer from the left corner pushed Seton Hall’s lead to 50-38 with 13 minutes to play, and Butler never got closer than six points after that.
Aaron Thompson and Jayden Taylor scored 10 apiece for the Bulldogs.
Bo Hodges, who was expected to be Butler’s starting small forward this season and is recovering from a leg injury, had hoped to make his season debut. But he was a late pregame scratch.
”It will be an incremental process to build him back in,” Jordan said. ”Getting your legs underneath you is something you haven’t done up to date. He’s got to have confidence in his game and in his body and kind of work himself back in there.”
Seton Hall: The Pirates, who opened Big East play with tight losses to ranked foes Villanova and Providence, continue to be powered by defense. With length, athleticism and physicality, they showed an ability to win on the road.
Butler: Jordan and his staff must figure out why this team keeps falling behind by so much. Butler has faced a double-digit deficit in 27 of its past 38 games dating to last season. Hodges’ return should add physicality on both ends and much-needed offense from the wing.
Seton Hall: Following a drop from No. 15 to No. 24, Seton Hall steadied itself and showed it has the tools to remain in the rankings. Starting center Ike Obiagu came off the bench Tuesday, scoring eight points and playing 28 minutes of solid defense after being forced to sit out the losses to Villanova and Providence.
”A big difference was Obiagu back there,” assistant coach Grant Billmeier said. ”He’s a 7-foot-1 load down low. You could be a little more aggressive on the perimeter knowing you have one of the best shot-blockers in the country.”
Butler: The Bulldogs have not been ranked and will need a leap from sophomore Chuck Harris, averaging 11.7 points per game, to catch voters’ attention in Big East play. Harris was held scoreless Tuesday while guarded by Myles Cale, the Pirates’ top perimeter defender.
Seton Hall: Hosts Connecticut on Saturday in what is set to be the Huskies’ first game since Dec. 21 following a pair of postponements.
Butler: Hosts Xavier on Friday in the rivals’ first meeting since last March’s Big East tournament thriller won by Butler 70-69 in overtime.
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