NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Having players from winning programs can make all the difference in the world, according to Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard.
The fact that freshmen Isaiah Whitehead and Desi Rodriguez both came out of Brooklyn's Abraham Lincoln High may have been the reason Seton Hall pulled out a 58-54 victory over George Washington on Saturday at the Prudential Center.
Rodriguez came off the bench to score all four of his points over the final 1:52 and Whitehead made the biggest play of the game when he drew a charge with .7 seconds left to put Seton Hall at 5-0 on the young season.
''I think what's different now with us is that you look at all the programs these guys have come from,'' Willard said. "When you have guys who come from winning programs, they make winning plays, and it's easier to teach winning plays. When you have guys who haven't won, it's tougher for them to understand that taking a charge at the end of a game is more important than hitting a 3.''
Whitehead, a 6-4 guard, finished with team-leading totals of 15 points, five assists and two blocks. He also had six rebounds and two steals. But his most important contribution was the charge he drew against Kethan Savage with Seton Hall clinging to a 56-54 lead.
''I just saw he was going out of control and there was limited things he could have done,'' Whitehead said. ''I just decided to step in there and take a charge. I'm just taking my time with my offense. My shots are coming. I get the (team) concept of the game now. Everything has to be defense first, defense first. If we play defense, our offense will come.''
Kevin Larsen's basket inside had tied the game at 52-52 for George Washington (3-1) with 2:06 left in the game. On the play, Brandon Mobley fouled out, putting Rodriguez, who was battling a cold, into the game.
Rodriguez scored off a feed from Whitehead to give the Pirates a 54-52 lead with 1:26 to go and he later sank one foul shot with 1:07 showing and the second of two with 16.6 left.
''Throughout the past few days, I was going through a sickness, I had a cold,'' Rodriguez said. ''Coach knew that coming into the game. I had to give all the energy I could. I was just worried about knocking the fouls shots down. Each time I missed, I made the second one.''
After Whitehead drew the charge with .7 seconds left, Sterling Gibbs was fouled with .3 left and sank both for the final points. The junior guard has now made 19 of 19 free throws over the last two games.
Whitehead led four players in double figures, followed by Mobley with 14, Gibbs with 11 and freshman Angel Delgado, who finished with 10 point and 10 boards.
Delgado had missed two free throws with 5.0 seconds left, but Whitehead bailed him out by drawing the charge on Savage, who finished with 19 points.
''A lot of people were saying that we're not that good because of who we played but we showed today that we can contend with any team that comes to us,'' Whitehead said. ''It shows how mature we are as freshman. At one point in the game, for about 6 minutes, there was four freshmen and a sophomore on the court for us. That just shows how mature we are and how much we love to play.''
George Washington coach Mike Lonergan would have liked to have Savage take a 3-pointer and win the game, rather than driving the lane and looking to draw contact.
''I wanted to take a 3-pointer and get out of there,'' Lonergan said. ''We didn't want to play overtime. That was being called a charge the entire game. So trying to draw contact wasn't the right call.
''We had five assists and 12 turnovers in the first half and it didn't get much better. `Shots, not turnovers' is our motto. Some guys were trying to do too much. I thought that was the key stat in the game. We finished with seven assists and 18 turnovers in the game.''
Seton Hall: The Pirates sank 18 of 24 free throws in the game, including 6-for-6 shooting by Gibbs, who extended his streak of consecutive free throws made to 19. The Colonials sank 14 of 19 fouls, including 7 of 8 by Savage.
THREE-POINT DROUGHT: Seton Hall came into the game with the sixth best 3-point shooting percentage in the country at 46.7, but made just 14.3 percent in the game on 2-of-14 shooting.
Seton Hall: Home Tuesday vs. Mount St. Mary's.
George Washington: Plays host to Maryland-Baltimore County on Thursday