Wagner wary of No. 23 Seton Hall’s seniors

NEWARK, N.J. — Seton Hall tries for its ninth consecutive victory over Wagner when the teams meet on Wednesday at the Prudential Center.

The 23rd-ranked Pirates (9-2) have defeated the Seahawks (7-2) by an average of 17.1 points during the streak. Seton Hall is 126-41 against current Northeast Conference programs after defeating Fairleigh Dickinson 90-68 in this season’s opener.

“(Seton Hall) can be a Sweet 16 team or an Elite 8,” Wagner coach Bashir Mason said. “We have to go out and be who we are. It won’t make or break our season.”

Mason said he would like to hold the Pirates to about 37 percent shooting. Seton Hall has shot 50 percent or better in six games and 40 percent or better in all 11 games this season.

“I’m really impressed with the big three seniors (Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington),” Mason said. “They don’t play like it’s their last year of college basketball. They’re very unselfish. That’s the beauty of their team.”

The Seahawks are looking to expand on their best start under Mason, now in his sixth season at the Staten Island, N.Y., school. Wagner will look to close out its nonconference slate with nine wins, which would match the most to start the season since 2011-12. After the Seton Hall game, Wagner plays at Dayton before opening conference play at Mount St. Mary’s on Dec. 29.

Wagner senior guard JoJo Cooper is the Northeast Conference Player of the Week for his efforts in a 90-84 overtime loss at Rider on Saturday. Cooper became only the ninth Division I player over the last five years with at least 19 points, seven rebounds, 11 assists and three steals, joining a list that includes current NBA players Dennis Smith Jr., Kris Dunn and Elfrid Payton.

Cooper, who is the Seahawks’ second-leading scorer at 13.2 points per game, paces the NEC with 6.1 assists per game, a mark that is among the top 30 in Division I. He also leads the NEC with a 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio and ranks second in the league in steals at 2.4 per game.

Seton Hall will be without freshman point guard Jordan Walker, who quit the team Tuesday after appearing in only two games.

Walker, who was sidelined with a hand injury early in the season, averaged 3.5 points and 2.0 assists in 28 minutes. He was cleared to play against Rutgers on Saturday for the first time since mid-November, but he didn’t see any action.

Sophomore Eron Gordon, a combo guard, will backup Carrington at the point. Gordon is averaging 2.1 points and shooting 57.1 percent from the field while dishing out 15 assists compared to nine turnovers.

Rodriguez has been the go-to man offensively for the Pirates. He is averaging 19.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while shooting 54.8 percent from the field and 37.7 from three-point range. The team is 7-0 when he is the leading scorer, and he has poured in 15 or more in each of the past six games. The Pirates are 29-9 all-time when he scores 15 or more points.

Coach Kevin Willard’s team fell to New Jersey rival Rutgers 71-65 on Saturday, causing the Pirates to drop eight spots in the rankings.

“We’re 9-2, we’re still a really good basketball team,” Willard said. “I’m not going to the drawing board and doing anything crazy.

“We’ve played one of the toughest schedules in college basketball. We haven’t been home in forever. I’m not worried about it.”