Seton Hall puts No. 15 ranking on line vs. St. Peter's

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. -- Seton Hall will take the court on Tuesday with its highest ranking in almost 17 years when it hosts Saint Peter's at Walsh Gym on its campus.

The No. 15 Pirates (8-1) were last ranked this high in January 2001. They have won four straight, including victories over previously ranked Louisville and No. 24 Texas Tech.

This is the first meeting with Saint Peter's (4-4) since Dec. 13, 2015, when the Pirates won 72-46 at Prudential Center. Seton Hall held the Peacocks to 32.7 percent shooting and did not allow a double-digit scorer.

The Pirates are 45-7 at home and 63-24 in the all-time series with Saint Peter's.

Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard has done a good job keeping his veteran team grounded during the first month of the season.

"When we got ranked, we talked about protecting it, and I talked to them for about an hour about things given and things earned," said Willard, "and in life, you're really going to appreciate things that are earned more than things that are given. What I talked to them about was they have earned this ranking. They weren't given it to them. We've played a tough schedule and had some big wins. We've earned the right to get ranked.

"When you earn something, you want to take care of it. I'm trying to -- I always try to teach my guys, in life, people are going to give you stuff, and you're going to take that and chuck it in the back of your closet," Willard added. "But the things that you've earned with your paycheck and you go out and buy, you're really going to appreciate. I think these guys have really appreciated the fact that they have worked very hard. They have sacrificed a lot to get this, and they don't now want to give it away."

Seton Hall is 164-60 (.732) against teams from New Jersey. The Pirates have won each of their previous nine meetings against teams from the state, including victories over Monmouth, Fairleigh Dickinson and NJIT this season. During the Willard era, Seton Hall is 18-7 against New Jersey programs.

Desi Rodriguez is averaging 19.7 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent from the field and 35.7 from 3-point range for Seton Hall. The team is 7-0 when he is the leading scorer, and the Pirates are 28-8 all-time when he scores 15 or more points.

Saint Peter's coach John Dunne is very familiar with the Seton Hall program. He was an assistant coach with the Pirates from 2001-06 before arriving at Saint Peter's. He helped guide the Pirates to two NCAA Tournaments and one NIT appearance.

"Kevin's teams have always played hard," Dunne said. "They play with an attitude and a lot of confidence and are very unselfish."

The Peacocks have six new players who weren't a part of their 23-win season last year. Saint Peter's claimed the Collegeinsider.com Tournament last spring.

"Of course they're (Saint Peter's) going to get up for this game," Dunne said. "We have a lot of new guys and when that happens you worry about will they stay focused? And will they share the ball?

"I'm pleased on both fronts. The entire team has been very unselfish."

The Peacocks lead the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, 3-point field goal defense and turnover margin.

Nick Griffin ranks among the top 15 in the conference in scoring (fourth), field goal percentage (12th), free-throw percentage (13th), 3-point percentage (14th), 3 field goals made (fifth), and minutes played (fourth).

Quinn Taylor ranks fifth in rebounds, seventh in offensive rebounds, fourth in defensive rebounds and seventh in steals.

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