NEWARK, N.J. -- It was a classic case of proven veterans rising to the top against unproven youngsters.
"When you have as many seniors as we have, you have a lot of confidence in them," Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said Friday night after the 23rd- ranked Pirates defeated outmanned Fairleigh Dickinson 90-68 in the NIT Season Tip-Off first round game. "We're like an aged steak."
One of those seniors, Desi Rodriguez, scored 17 points, 13 in the first half. Another, Angel Delgado, had 10 points and 10 rebounds, his 51st career double-double. A third, Khadeen Carrington, added eight points and six assists.
"We just wanted to get the older guys comfortable and our younger guys to get their feet wet," Willard said.
One of the younger guys was freshman Myles Cale, who scored 12 points off the bench.
"He's worked hard to get back," Willard said of Cale, who suffered a shoulder injury over the summer and only returned to practice last month.
Myles Powell added 10 points for the winners, who had a dominating 44-27 advantage off the glass. Delgado, who led the nation in rebounding last season, led the way with 10 boards.
Mike Holloway Jr. and Darnell Edge paced the Knights with 13 points each. FDU was missing Darian Anderson, last year's leading scorer, who was out as he rehabs a stress fracture suffered over the summer. Anderson scored 27 points in last year's contest between the teams, also won by Seton Hall.
"He's our Aaron Rodgers," FDU coach Greg Herenda said of Anderson. "It's kind of hard to play without our senior leader. There's no timetable for him coming back. He's games away. Seton Hall is a very good experienced team. We're young and they just sort of sped us up with some pressure. "
Seton Hall took the lead for good on a Rodriguez 3-pointer at 19-17. Just 7 seconds later, Rodriguez converted on a conventional three-point play, pushing the lead to 22-17. The six straight points initiated a 15-0 Pirates run that gave Seton Hall a 31-17 lead with 8:11 remaining in the half.
Seton Hall led 47-28 at the half and led by as many as 30 in the second half.
Seton Hall had runs of 9-0 and 15-0 in the first half, putting the game away early.
Seton Hall tipped off the new season with a national ranking for the first time since 2000-01, when the Pirates started the year at No. 10. The last time the Pirates were ranked was March 14, 2016.
With the win Friday, Willard has won his season opener in each of his eight seasons with the Pirates.
THE BIG PICTURE
Seton Hall: The Pirates began one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory, returning 90 percent of their scoring and rebounding from the team that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season. They are the only Division I team with three returning 1,000-point scorers in Rodriguez, Delgado and Carrington.
Fairleigh Dickinson: The Knights started strong, outscoring Seton Hall, 12-5, over the first 3 minutes, but faded once the Pirates employed a pressing defense. Holloway scored five points, including a 3-pointer off glass to start the game, during that early stretch.
The Pirates play host to Monmouth on Sunday as part of four home games in nine days. They face Indiana as part of the Gavitt Tipoff series Wednesday.
The Knights travel to play at Penn State on Sunday.