Saturday, March 5, 2016

Whitehead makes a case for BIG EAST Player of the Year with a career-high 33

                                Photo Credit: Geno Green

For most of the BIG EAST season, the spotlight has revolved around Providence's Kris Dunn as the player to watch for.

Seton Hall Pirates guard Isaiah Whitehead might have a thing or two say about who the best player in the conference should be.

The sophomore delivered one of the top performances in conference play this season with a career-high 33 points on 10-of-15 from the field in a 80-66 win at DePaul on Saturday.

On top of the showing, Whitehead closed the regular season with his fourth straight 20-plus point game.

Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard is no stranger to Whitehead's ability to turn things on at a moment's notice, whether in a game or at practice.

"When Isaiah gets into that zone where he is feeling it, there isn't much anyone can really do," Willard said. "We've seen it at practices and games before."

A 1:14 stretch in the second half summed up Whitehead's value to the Pirates all season. 

With 10:47 left and Seton Hall clinging to a 52-49 lead on DePaul, Whitehead nailed a three-pointer from the wing and on DePaul's next possession, Billy Garrett threw his hat into the ring with a long range make of his own.

Up 55-52, Whitehead decided to counter on the other end with no defender in sight for another triple— this time from the wing.

After the make, Whitehead went back on defense and stared down the ball near the wing, waiting for Garrett to gain possession of the ball. Whitehead timed the play with precision and stole the ball as he flipped out of bounds and threw the ball to Khadeen Carrington at the other end.

DePaul coach Dave Leitao complemented Whitehead on his ability to put the team on his back and deliver in long stretches.

"What [Isaiah] did before and after that Flagrant 2 call are what elite players on teams do and he has worked his tail off to put himself," Leitao said. 

"It didn't become any one shot until he hit a barrage of threes to put the game away."

Players such as Providence's Dunn and Ben Bentil, along with Villanova's Josh Hart will likely get top consideration for conference Player of the Year award, but believes Whitehead belongs with the elite.

"We have had a lot of great players in our league and [Isaiah] is right there," Leitao said. "It will be interesting to see what happens when the votes are tallied, but Isaiah Whitehead isn't taking a backseat to no one."

At 22-8 overall and 12-6 in the BIG EAST, Whitehead and the rest of the Seton Hall team are in first class, not economy for a change.

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