- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (AP) - Seton Hall isn’t satisfied with its highest ranking in 14 years and beating ranked teams back to back for the first time in 23 years.

“It’s a great feeling, but we want more,” forward Brandon Mobley said after learning the 12-2 Pirates climbed into The Associated Press Top 25 at No. 19 this week, the first time the Pirates have been placed among the Top 25 since Jan. 9, 2012. “We’re not going to settle for this. We know what it took to get to this point, but we can’t be happy with it. The ultimate goal is March.”

Seton Hall has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2006. But the national ranking gives the team some credibility.

“We’re on a high right now, no question,” said guard Sterling Gibbs, who was named the Big East Player of the Week for leading the Pirates to wins over No. 15 St. John’s and No. 6 Villanova last week.

“But it’s just a start. We have to keep up the good work,” Gibbs said. “We can enjoy this, a national ranking, getting national recognition. But it gets tougher now.”

The Pirates play their next two games on the road against Xavier on Wednesday and against Creighton Saturday.

“We go from being the hunter to being the hunted,” said Gibbs, who had 25 points against St. John’s and 20 against Villanova. “There’s a lot of season left to go.”

Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard allowed his players to celebrate the national ranking, the Pirates’ highest since being ranked No. 22 on Jan. 30, 2001, but also told them the season is far from over.

“It’s nice that they get a little recognition for their hard work,” Willard said Monday after practice. “They’re the ones who put in the time since July. It’s a sign that a group of good players could come together and achieve.

“But we still have to go out and grind some wins on the road,” he said. “In this league, every game is a big game and it’s tough to win on the road.”

It’s been a struggle since Willard arrived in South Orange four years ago, posting an exactly .500 mark at 66-66 during that time. But Willard welcomed a heralded freshman recruiting class, spearheaded by McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Whitehead, who is currently out of action with a stress fracture of his right foot. Whitehead, a standout guard, was the Preseason Big East Rookie of the Year and was averaging 11.9 points over the first 13 games before the injury.

“We’re off to a much better start than what I thought we would have, especially after losing Isaiah,” Willard said. “Our younger guys have come in and impressed me.”

One of those talented freshmen is guard Khadeen Carrington, who averaged 14 points per game in the two Big East wins, earning Big East Rookie of the Week honors.

“We all knew how good this freshman class was,” Carrington said. “We all decided to come together and show that we have a bunch of talented players, other than Isaiah.”

“We all made the right choice so we can be a team to be reckoned with,” Carrington said. “Now we have to work harder to stay on top.”

The 2-0 record in the Big East is the best conference start for the Pirates since 1999-2000.

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