Early Saturday morning, Seton Hall (13-9, 2-7) came out of the gates reenergized with an aggressive and caffeinated defense, jacked up to play in front of the 1992-1993 team and head coach, P.J. Carlesimo. After 40 minutes of trading unbelievable runs, a seven-minute Cincinnati (18-4, 6-3) rout and an impressive and valiant Seton Hall comeback, the Pirates fell short at home to the Bearcats, 65-59.
Looking for a spark, Kevin Willard went with his 11th unique starting lineup that featured Kevin Johnson (3reb/stl/blk), making his second career start and the return of point guard Tom Maayan (2pts/5reb) to the starting lineup. Although the Pirates began the ballgame with a clear sense of urgency on display defensively, a severe 7-minute lapse to close the first and enter the second, found them suddenly trailing by TWENTY points.
An infusion of energy was apparent for the Pirates in the contest's opening minutes, evidenced by none other than Kyle Smyth (3pts/2reb) banging with trees for rebounds on both ends of the floor. Kevin Johnson, held his own with the Cincinnati bigs early in the half, and Aaron Cosby (7pts/3ast/3to) even finished an impressive penetrating drive where he split three bearcats to finish after being fouled. Unfortunately, the energy level waned in the minutes before halftime, as Fuquan Edwin (16pts/6reb) and Brandon Mobley (16pts/4reb) found themselves in foul trouble with 2 fouls a piece. As Edwin hit the bench for extended stretches and Mobley was forced to defend passively, Cincinnati was able to take a 5-point lead into intermission. A deficit that the Pirates would never recover from, as the Bearcats piled on TWENTY unanswered points.
Appropriately enough on Groundhog Day, the Pirates once again challenged their opponent and were able to hang around for a bit before they lost their energy, defensive assignments, and just about all of their interest over the first five minutes of the second half. Burning three time-outs over that span in an attempt to regroup his unit, Kevin Willard repeatedly PLEADED for his guys to fight and well, the Pirates responded. Seton Hall would rip off a 17-2 run of their own, as they prevented Cincinnati from scoring over a ten-minute stretch. Getting as close as four-points with 3 minutes remaining, the Pirates gave one HELL of a fight, but ultimately found the uphill battle impossible to overcome.
In the final 1:40, with Seton Hall trailing by 7, Kevin Willard decided not to extend the game bypassing the decision to foul, but instead relied on his defense to get a stop and return the basketball with about a minute in regulation. The stop was made, but Cincinnati milked the shot clock and grabbed the offensive rebound to ice the game. Despite one of the softest non-conference schedules in D-1, the Pirates overall record is suddenly collapsing towards the dreaded .500 mark. With a trip to Pittsburgh on the horizon Monday, Seton Hall will continue the search for their 3rd conference victory.