Seton Hall dropped the first game of their 3-game road trip, falling 67-66 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center for their 7th loss at the venue in as many contests. With Gene Teague still being held out of game action, Marquette was able to out-rebound the Pirates (18-10) in the first half, which prevented second opportunities that the Pirates badly needed considering their early poor shooting display.
Aaron Geramipoor and Fuquan Edwin returned from their injuries, each checking in slightly after the under-16 timeout, but neither one was able to infuse very much offense in the early minutes. Geramipoor may have had to enter the game earlier than what Kevin Willard originally anticipated due to Brandon Mobley picking up his 2nd foul just 5.5 minutes in, forcing the coach's hand. Offensively, the Pirates opened ice cold, hovering around 30% for much of the first half, while taking 11 minutes before Fuquan Edwin made the team's first 3-pointer. Not exactly a successful formula for winning a conference game on the road, with Gene Teague out of action.
Speaking of the big fella, this is the exact reason why I annoyingly clamored during the non-conference slate, that the offense must run through a healthy Eugene Teague, without him, the Pirates are unable to get much of anything going offensively. Marquette took their largest lead of the half (15) with 5 minutes remaining, but Jaren Sina's first made bucket in 3 games, and a couple strong finishes by Manga prevented the Eagles from running away early. Regarding Manga, he's shown in recent games that he may be one of the best finishers on the team, especially when taking contact. Why he didn't see any minutes in the 2nd half, until Brandon Mobley fouled out with 44 seconds remaining is anyone's guess. For a team that seemingly misses a slew of wide-open layups (I counted 5 today, including a crucial miss by Edwin down 4 at the end of regulation), it's refreshing to see somebody consistent around the rim. Other than Manga's 9 points in the first frame, no other Pirate scored more than 5 (Auda), and the lack of offense set the tone for the Eagles to soar into the half leading 46-20.
The second half featured an offensive drought (just 2 layups in 6 minutes) from the Eagles coupled with a four minute continuous stretch without a stoppage. The increased pace of play seemed to sap a significant amount of energy out of Marquette, allowing Seton Hall to hang around, pulling to within 9 points with 12 minutes remaining. Sterling Gibbs was quiet for most of the afternoon until he drilled a 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring and then followed with an and-1 conversion on the next possession, cutting the deficit to 5 points. Gibbs second half play lit a fuse underneath the Pirates, as the point guard scored 8 straight points for the Seton Hall.
After missing a layup, Patrik Auda fought for his own rebound and subsequent shot attempt, but was brought to the floor with a hard foul from Davante Gardner. With a chance to pull Seton Hall within 4 points, Auda uncharacteristically missed both of his free throws and the Eagles converted a layup on their following possession for a four-point swing. Trailing by 9 with 2:25 remaining, Auda and Oliver combined to make a pair of made 3s, while sandwiching a Marquette turnover at half court in between, making it a single-possession game just 14 seconds later.
A miscommunication between Brandon Mobley and Kevin Willard saw the junior foul Jamil Wilson with 42 seconds remaining, essentially securing the victory for Marquette. With a foul to give earlier in Marquette's possession, Kevin Willard called for the Pirates to use it with 43 seconds on the clock to disrupt the Eagles' possession. With Marquette now in the bonus, Mobley either wasn't aware that they were indeed in the bonus, or that Willard had called off the "give foul" sign. In any case, Wilson sank both free throws, giving the Golden Eagles a lead they wouldn't relinquish. The Pirates took advantage of the hectic pace in the second half and fought back from a large deficit as they got hot from long distance while their opponent seemingly tired. In the end, miscues and miscommunications prevented the Pirates from taking advantage of one final opportunity, sealing their fate.
Seton Hall is next in action a week from today, taking on the Georgetown Hoyas in DC.