Aesthetically, as usual, this game was ugly, and the final score belies that, especially for Seton Hall.
Here are the 5 Thoughts:
- Late Run In Vain.....Again
I attended a young alumni event to watch this game in Hoboken, and while it was technically all about the game, it was really a social event. Mostly, people kept an eye on the score, but used much of the game to catch up with old classmates, mingle, etc..., especially with the team struggling.
Anyway, my point is that when the Pirates made their threes near the end to make the score seem like it was a close game (the Pirates never led, by the way), everyone was super-pumped. They were cheering like the shots tied the game, or gave the Pirates the lead.
But after witnessing the exact same thing countless times in the last few years, I knew better. You take away that near-perfect storm of Rutgers ineptitude and three point baskets, and the Pirates lost the game by about 8, and that's what it felt like.
For most of the contest, it really wasn't that close. Even when there was hope, after Eli Carter missed his Russ Smith-like layup in the waning minutes, the ensuing turnover provided the perfect metaphor for this season. Even when things have broken right for this year's Pirates, there's always something that goes wrong to bring everyone back to earth.
- Who Are They?
In the first half of this game, the Pirates were very fortunate. They drew two quick fouls on Carter, and then got Wally Judge in foul trouble. There was a clear window to capitalize on those major losses for Rutgers personnel-wise.
They weren't able to, in large part because they allowed themselves to get beaten by the scintillating offensive talents of Austin Johnson, Kadeem Jack, and others. Johnson won the game MVP, for crying out loud.
Myles Mack had a good first half, but when you have two of Rutgers' most-dangerous players, including its most talented scorer, on the bench, you know that eventually, they'll get going. Carter did, and because of the way-too-easy looks they gave players like Johnson (whose lone offensive move on the block is a running, right-handed flip shot that everyone knew was coming), that run by Carter was enough to make the deficit too high to overcome.
Johnson is a solid post player, a "serviceable" one, you might say. But there is no way that he should be scoring 8 PTS against the Pirates while pulling off his one move not once, but twice (by my count). It just should not happen.
- Gold Stars
Ok, now on to something positive. Huge kudos to Brandon Mobley (10 PTS in 20 minutes, 2-5 from three) for keeping the Hall in the game in the first half. He was able to shake off his nagging shoulder to give the Pirates all he could muster.
Also, Gene Teague did pretty well for himself (12 PTS, 7 REB, no turnovers), as he was given more rest than he usually gets (29 minutes). He looked like he had a little more bounce in him than in recent games.
Teague can keep on getting that rest, by the way, if Kevin Johnson continues to do good things. Kevin only made 1-5 shots from the floor, getting a few rejected by the Rutgers shot blockers. But he continued to show some progress, and he's now completely taken over the backup center position from Aaron Geramipoor.
- Point Guard
One of the favorite beefs that Seton Hall fans have brought up repeatedly is that Aaron Cosby is not really at his best (or anywhere near it for that matter) when he plays the 1. I agree- playing the point causes him to have to split his attention between running the offense and looking for open shots. He will be moved back to his customary position next season when Sterling Gibbs is expected to take over the point.
But here's the thing- when Tom Maayan, who's had his ups and downs, doesn't play well, the only thing Coach Willard can do is use Cosby in his place. Kyle Smyth is not a point guard- he's even less of one than Cosby. While Maayan's final total of 4 AST and 2 turnovers looks decent, he didn't look comfortable in his 17 minutes, especially to begin the second half.
It's no coincidence that Cosby lit the Rock on fire for 25 PTS against UConn, because Maayan played one of his better overall games (after a couple early TOs, his rest-of-game count was 5 AST and only 1 turnover) that day. Maayan did have help in the passing department (most notably from Smyth and Haralds Karlis), but he played 22 minutes that game, and looked confident for most of them.
Bottom line is that if he can play with confidence and not turn the ball over, you'll see more of Cosby at the 2, and therefore better numbers from Cosby. Last night AC was a little flustered (0 AST, 5 TOs).
- Finding A Way
Looking at the remaining schedule, most of the games SHU has are at home (Syracuse, Marquette, Villanova, Rutgers) with two away contests left. Since the last three road games (Georgetown, Pitt, Rutgers) haven't looked particularly good, the home court will be a good thing, although a powerhouse like Syracuse may turn that one into a blowout anyway.
There are 7 games left (at least), including the Big East Tournament. It's all about giving a good effort at this point, and after not looking quite right in a road environment compared to the UConn home game, the Pirates have chances to try and steal a win from someone. The Syracuse game on Saturday is going to be a doozy. But after that, the Pirates get Marquette (not a great road team this season, and a team the Pirates gave a very good effort against in their road meeting earlier this year), Villanova and Rutgers, both of whom have also been different teams on the road.
Any one of those could be the game that can give some fans relief from this really, really rough campaign.