GREENSBORO, N.C. -- When Seton Hall coach P. J. Carlesimo rolls out the basketballs at the start of practice each October, the goal for his team is made clear.
"The objective is to win the national championship," Carlesimo said yesterday. "You can't win the national championship without playing Duke."
The Pirates earned that opportunity yesterday by asserting themselves at the start of the second half in an 88-71 win over Missouri. Terry Dehere scored 20 points to lead five players in double figures for Seton Hall (23-8), which will play top-seeded Duke in an East Regional semifinal on Thursday in Philadelphia.
"What lays ahead for us is the best team in the country," said Carlesimo, whose team has been placed in the bracket with the nation's top team in each of its four tournament appearances. "But we feel we're pretty good, too."
The Pirates, the No. 4 seeds, pulled away from No. 5 Missouri (21-9) with a 15-4 run to start the second half, increasing a 36-33 halftime lead to 51-37. Seton Hall hit eight of nine free throws during that run -- forward Jerry Walker was six of seven -- which followed a first half in which the Pirates made their only two attempts.
"In the first half, we didn't give our big people enough opportunities and we didn't make Missouri play inside defense," Carlesimo said. "At the half, we said, 'Let's come out and get the ball inside.' We were able to pound it in, and many of their key people got in foul trouble."
Missouri guard Anthony Peeler got hot in the second half, when he scored 19 of his 28. But the Tigers still spent the second half trying to catch up. Never did Missouri cut the lead to single digits after Seton Hall's initial run in the second half.
"Once they got control of the game, they handled it well," said Missouri coach Norm Stewart. "We just couldn't get it to go the other way. Some of it was their defense, but a lot of it was our lack of intensity. We could never get a flow going."
Despite his 28 points, Peeler couldn't get his flow going in the game. With Seton Hall's Gordon Winchester all over him, the Big Eight Player of the Year was forced to work hard on each of his 22 shots (he made 11).
"[Winchester] did a great job not going for the pump fake, and he denied the ball a lot," Peeler said. "I wound up forcing some of my shots."
Stewart said his team did a poor job adjusting to the officiating, which he said allowed extremely physical play.
"We make four more field goals [29 to 25] but get to the line just nine times," Stewart said. "We just didn't get to the basket enough."
The Pirates wound up hitting 16 of 28 free throws in the second half. Walker, who scored 19, was nine of 12 from the line in the second half. The Pirates also did a better job protecting the ball, committing three of their 12 turnovers in the final 20 minutes.
"The difference [in the second half] wasn't what we were running, it was how we were running it," Carlesimo said. "We didn't get fouled in the first half because we were rushing our shots. The big key was our rebounding [33-25 edge]. That was about a good a job as we've done."
Missouri, the No. 5 seed, had advanced to the second round for the second time in its past six NCAA appearances. The third-place team in the only league to place six teams in this year's tournament, Missouri became the the third Big Eight team to lose. The remaining three teams to play today.
"I guess it shows that other conferences are playing better," said Stewart, whose team dropped its second non-conference game