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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (AP) — Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard called his team together for a practice Christmas evening, despite losing standout freshman Isaiah Whitehead to a broken foot and having senior forward Brandon Mobley battling the flu.
"We had our best Christmas Day practice I ever had, as a coach, as a player," Willard said. "I knew we would be ready."
Sterling Gibbs scored 18 points and Jaren Sina had 13, leading Seton Hall to a 72-43 rout of Maine in a rare home game at Walsh Gym on Saturday.
After Maine (1-10) scored the game's first five points, the Pirates (10-2) went on a huge 21-0 run, holding the Black Bears scoreless for more than 10 minutes. Angel Delgado —who scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds— and Khadeen Carrington scored six points each during that span.
Willard believes the run was because of the practices at home.
"That was because we just had two good days of practice and concentrated on our defense," Willard said. "Our road trip limited our practice time."
Whatever it was, it impressed Maine head coach Bob Walsh.
"Seton Hall is a really good team," Walsh said. "We just didn't respond when they jumped on us. We couldn't find a way to fight through it. I think a lot of our offensive problems affected our defense and we lost a little edge, then lost control."
Gibbs knew that the Pirates would respond, especially playing at Walsh Gym.
"We had to come out and push the tempo a little on them," said Gibbs, who scored 10 of his 18 points in the first half. "We just had to get in a little rhythm. I loved playing here. I really wish they could play more home games here. It was definitely a good feeling."
From that point, the Black Bears never got to within double digits of the Pirates, who coasted in front of their standing room only home crowd.
Besides Gibbs, Sina and Delgado, the Pirates were boosted by the play of Carrington, who scored 12 points off the bench. The Pirates were playing their first game without the services of highly touted guard Whitehead, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture of his right foot last week.
"I think it was good to play a game without him," Willard said. "We can make adjustments to the lineup and substitution patterns."
"Honestly, it wasn't much of an emphasis," Gibbs said. "Isaiah is a great player and we're going to miss him. I just have to be aggressive and make plays for my teammates. Having a win like this helps our confidence."
Maine was paced by Till Gloger, who scored 12 points.
After the big first half run, Seton Hall held a commanding 36-16 at halftime, led by Gibbs and Delgado. The Pirates pushed the lead to 28 with 15:20 left and never looked back. The biggest lead was 29 with 5:20 remaining in the game and then the final margin.
"A win like this is going to help us going into the tough Big East schedule," Gibbs said.
"I'm really proud of this team, being 10-2," Willard said. "We have had the least amount of home games in the Big East. We've had a challenging schedule, so we're ready."
Seton Hall: This was the first game for the Pirates without Isaiah Whitehead, who was averaging 11.9 points per game over the first 11 games. Whitehead, the school's first McDonald's All-American recruit since 2000, is out for an unspecified time with the broken foot. Whitehead was on the bench with his foot in a boot.
The Pirates played most of the game without senior forward Brandon Mobley, who played only three minutes and scored just two points after battling the flu.
Maine: Head coach Bob Walsh is in his first season and the team is struggling to shoot, connecting on just 30 percent from the floor (17 of 56, 30.4 percent).
The Black Bears played without leading scorer Zarko Valjarevic, who was out with an undisclosed injury. Valjarevic was averaging 11.4 points per game.
Maine travels to Quinnipiac Monday.
Seton Hall opens Big East Conference play as it hosts 17th-ranked St. John's Wednesday.
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