I don't know what to say, guys.
Seton Hall played relatively well for the first time in a while, and had their best half of basketball since the DePaul game. But they didn't get the win, what would have been a huge, enormous win in the final chance to get a true quality road victory this season.
Here are the 5 Thoughts from an exceedingly frustrating game:
- Opening Strong
The first 20 minutes of this game were phenomenal. Seton Hall came out of the gates and matched Marquette's intensity. They fed the ball down low to Herb Pope (16 PTS, 7 REB) in the absence of Davante Gardner, and Pope controlled the paint accordingly. The energy brought by a totally shaken-up starting 5 translated into the Pirates getting out and pushing the pace, which also helped them greatly. Seton Hall led by as many as 11 PTS in this half as they got contributions from Pope, Fuquan Edwin, Brandon Mobley, Aaron Geramipoor, and more. They were pressured by a tough Marquette man-to-man, and moved the ball, played for each other, and used enough shot-fakes to make Bob Knight blush in excitement. Tremendous first half, even if the score didn't show it due to some late Herb Pope foul trouble.
- Finishing Weak
While they weren't quite as easy as the layups they missed in the Louisville game, there were still way too many shots missed in-close. That's the first meaning of the thought title.
Second meaning? That's obvious- a huge Marquette run buoyed by the Golden Eagles finally making some threes and Vander Blue of all people exploding onto the scene with the best game of his career after a rough start put this game out of the Pirates' reach. More ridiculous hero offense from Jordan Theodore didn't help things.
In fact, the Marquette run was jump-started by a lob in transition to Blue for a 2-hand dunk. The crowd, which had been dormant the whole night, rose from the grave and helped their team out. I talk about these momentum plays all the time, and Seton Hall was on the verge of several in this game, but could never get them to follow through. That one play led to another, and away the Golden Eagles went. They also did a nice job of fronting Herb Pope in the post to deny him the ball- Jae Crowder was positioned in full deny position on Pope whenever Seton Hall would look for the entry pass, and Marquette's defender on the opposite side of the paint shaded towards the basket to prevent the lob pass over Crowder.
- Fantastic Freddie
The reason the Pirates were even still in this game after the big Marquette run was a totally unexpected source of offense. Freddie Wilson had quite the game- 7 PTS, 3 AST and 1 TO as he responded when the ball was put in his hands in the second half. He looked comfortable handling the ball against the Marquette defense, and he gave the team a spark down the stretch, although it failed to turn into a fire.
- Personnel Changes
I feel like this needs to be said at this point in the season. When I saw the topsy-turvy lineup that Coach Willard put on the floor, I was a little hesitant. After the first couple possessions, I wasn't anymore. Coach Willard shook things up by starting 3 new players in place of the usual starters, and it was great. If you look at the box score, everyone got involved and played their share of minutes.
But down the stretch of this game, there were a few things that could not be ignored. First, Jordan Theodore reverted to the hero offense. This killed the Pirates, and when Seton Hall could have gotten within two late in the ballgame, the one time Theodore should have gotten the ball, he gave it up to Edwin, and it turned into a shot clock violation. He did have a 7/1 AST/TO ratio tonight, which is nice, but most of those had to have come in the first half.
Theodore is the most important player on the team this year. But when Marquette got tough, and Junior Cadougan stuck to him like glue to deny him the ball if he gave it up, Theodore wilted and started doing too much dribbling. The argument this season has been that because no backup has emerged behind him, the Pirates have to leave him on the floor, and that's been true for the most part. But I think it's time to start giving Freddie Wilson more time, especially if Theodore continues to go back to his old, bad habits.
Second, it's time to give serious thought to cutting down Patrik Auda's minutes. Auda's confidence level is at the bottom of the ocean right now, and his jitters are affecting his play. It was so obvious tonight that 18 minutes he got were about 12 minutes too many. He's not even looking for his shot anymore from the outside, and when he does look to score it's always on bull-rushes to the rim with the left hand; these rarely work because defenses rotate over and make him miss. We're not even going to talk about rebounding- why talk about something that isn't there anymore?
Brandon Mobley (7 PTS, 6 REB in the same 18 minutes of playing time) gives the Pirates length and athleticism down low and also serves as the initial deny defender in the Pirates' press. You can't throw the ball to him on the block yet, but he's about a billion times more likely to help the cause right now. He even looks to shoot the three when he's open; sometimes that gets him into a bad shot or two, but the point is he's aware of when he has an opportunity to do so. It was the right move to start him against Louisville, and it's now the right time to give him more of Auda's minutes.
Can Seton Hall just bench Auda? Absolutely not. But they need to cut down his minutes drastically. Simplifying things for him can help him get his confidence back because if he's brought in to do a specific thing (such as hustle, look to shoot, etc...) in a smaller amount of time, it will help him immensely.
More minutes for Wilson and Mobley, and less for Theodore and Auda. I hope Coach Willard makes it happen.
- Life Support
As in, the Seton Hall NCAA hopes are on life support. The game with a sliding UConn team on Saturday is an absolute must win if this team is to not completely collapse from it's 15-2 start. The Huskies will have Jim Calhoun back, and will be out for revenge in front of their home crowd. I wish it didn't have to come to this particular game, but the Pirates have put themselves in this hole. If they don't want to get trapped down there, they have to beat the Huskies in Hartford. A full preview will be up here on the Juice on Friday afternoon. Can Seton Hall keep themselves from spiraling out of contention?