Jeremy Hazell missed an open look from 30-feet as time expired in an attempt that would have sent the game into overtime. Instead, Villanova squeaked out their 9th consecutive victory over the Pirates dating back to 2004. The effort from the Pirates was there tonight. It was more than there, it was tremendous. The defense was outstanding in limiting a Wildcat offense that averages 75PPG to just 60. As a unit, they were a turnover machine tonight, forcing Villanova into making 22 mistakes, many of which came late in the game which nearly tipped the scale in SHU's favor. The Pirates were energetic from the tip, hustling and stepping into passing lanes and coming away with 7 steals, diving and scrambling for loose balls, tying the Wildcats up on multiple occasions. Tonight was one of the best efforts I've seen out of them all season. However, at the end of the day, you've got to outscore your opponent and with that, along comes execution, which was severely lacking tonight.
When you only shoot 33% from the floor, it's safe to say there was a problem with offensive execution. Other than Jeremy Hazell (9-of-22; 25PTS), each Pirate struggled to find their rhythm offensively. As we've seen on more than one occasion this season, the Pirates tend to live and die by the three, usually dying more often than living another day. Tonight was no exception, it was all death. If you take Hazell out of the equation, his teammates were 0-for-13 from long distance. Had anyone but Hazell made just one, the Pirates probably win this one. When we talk execution, we often look at the inability of the Pirates to run fluid offensive sets, however that wasn't the case tonight. The offense was constantly in motion, players were moving without the ball, finding the open teammate and taking open shots, but the Pirates simply couldn't knock them down. In a game where the Pirates couldn't buy a bucket from the floor, they did execute from the line, converting on 15-of-19 attempts; one of their better outputs of the year. Herb Pope even joined the party, draining two HUGE FTs with 1:12 on the clock to pull the Pirates to within a deuce.
The Pirates hit the glass almost as poorly as they shot the rock, getting owned by Villanova from the opening whistle to a tune of 36-20 on the night. Jeff Robinson lead his teammates in rebounding, notching 7 boards in a game where he failed to make a field goal in the first 25 minutes en route to 4PTS/7REB. Herb Pope (7PTS/4REB) had a quiet night on glass as he was the only other Pirate to record more than 3REB. If you aren't shooting the ball well and you get dominated on the glass, you've got very little chance of winning the ballgame. When Villanova freshman reserve, James Bell hits 4-of-6 from beyond the arc on his way to 21PTS, you've got even less of a chance. Fortunately for the Pirates, turning the Wildcats over 22 times kept them in it to the very end. Unfortunately for the home team, it wasn't enough.