Seton Hall (15-6, 4-5) dropped their fourth straight contest and second straight at home losing to Louisville 60-51 in front of a sleepy crowd at the Rock on Saturday night. Since cracking the Top 25 as a top 3 team in the conference, the freefall from grace has been one ugly ride, having lost 4 of 5 and finding themselves tied for 11th with who else, Rutgers. The Pirates have played some horrific basketball over the course of the last two weeks and opened play tonight no differently. In the first five minutes Seton Hall scored two points on a Herb Pope layup, thirteen minutes into the game and the story wasn't much different. Three made layups accounted for the team's six points as they fell to an early 21-6 deficit, effectively putting this one out of reach before it even began.
Every time the Pirates showed some life tonight by stringing together a couple mini-runs, they were unable to sustain the momentum. Right when it appeared they were ready to break out and close in on the Cardinals, they were met with bad break after bad break. They came from every angle this evening, silly turnovers, a myriad of missed bunnies, layups and free throws or a clutch Louisville answer. In the final minute, the Pirates pulled within 4 points (55-51), but Herb Pope missed 3-of-4 crucial free throws that could have made it a one possession game. The breaks kept the Pirates at bay at allowed Louisville to scratch their way to an ugly victory of their own. In the second half the Pirates made plays defensively, turning the Cards over 23 times for the night, yet it would matter little. Playing terrific defense hardly matters when you can't make your baskets. When you're unable to put the basketball through the nylon, as evidenced by Seton Hall's 28% shooting from the floor, it's impossible to win games.
There's been little to no flow to this offense for the better part of two weeks and the results aren't surprising. Good, even excellent defense on display for stretches has been tremendously outweighed by a lack of offensive execution, resulting in four straight losses. Don't make baskets, don't expect to win. If missed bunnies, layups and free throws seem as if they've been a deciding factor thus far, this season, they have been. If the Pirates had been able to make a greater number of theirs leading up to this point, they'd have a significantly better record and be capable of snapping this losing streak.
The seniors were the only Pirates to score in double figures tonight as Jordan Theodore led all scorers with 18 and Herb Pope notched a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Despite a poor shooting (6-20) and distribution (3ast/4to) night for JT, he kept his team somewhat close in the second half, willing his way to the rim and to the charity stripe where he recorded a third of his points tonight. While Pope looked better showing off a new found pump fake, and had a vicious dunk or two, he still struggled to finish around the rim (4-13) for most of the night.
Prior to the game it was expected that Brandon Mobley would finally get his first start, replacing sophomore Patrik Auda in the lineup. As I've been saying for weeks, your best five players need to start and Willard finally made the switch tonight. Despite the shakeup having little effect on the final outcome, it was a necessary move and one I'm expecting to stick. Mobley only finished with 6pts, but was active keeping possessions alive and coming away with a key steal and a block as the Pirates mounted a couple mini-runs. It's apparent he's contributing more to the team and it looks as if the staff will look to Auda to regain some confidence in a role coming off of the bench, you can't fault them for that, given Auda's play this season.
With their season suddenly on the brink of disaster, the Pirates embark on a three game road trip beginning with Marquette on Tuesday, followed by Connecticut and Rutgers. I've seen nothing of late that leads me to believe that they'll be better than 4-8 when they return home on February 12th. To put things in perspective, everyone has an opinion as to why they've been playing so poorly the last two weeks. The players are hitting a wall, we're facing opponents who play well at home, Notre Dame and Louisville had the right gameplan to stifle our offense, whatever. One thing is for certain at the moment, they're just not a very good basketball team, right now. Maybe the road trip will clear their heads? Maybe, but the last one didn't and I'd be shocked if we suddenly begin to see different results come Tuesday. As always, Let's Go Hall.