Seton Hall opened up their current three game home stand on Tuesday night, falling to Marquette 77-66 in front of a scarcely attended Prudential Center, good for a conference sweep for the Golden Eagles. The Pirates evening began with very little ball movement on the offensive end as their early possessions ended quickly after substantial isolation dribbling coupled with just a single pass, or two. On the defensive end, Seton Hall looked equally as lost as Jamil Wilson (25pts/10reb) easily created separation on the perimeter to drill three buckets from deep in Marquette's first seven possessions en route to a career night for the Golden Eagle.
The Golden Eagles senior forward who had averaged just 11.5ppg, was responsible for 14 of his team's first 16 points, all coming within the first 6 minutes of action. Before Robert Manganaro was done rocking the National Anthem in front of the few thousand in attendance, Kevin Willard found himself calling timeout in an attempt to infuse the same energy into his Pirates, trailing 13-4.
Behind by 10 points with 10 minutes in the first half, the Pirates managed to take momentum momentairly after converting 6-consecutive field goal attempts, while also turning over the Eagles on three of four possessions, cutting the lead to four. Despite the 10-2 run, 10 first half Seton Hall turnovers allowed the Eagles far too many extra offensive possessions, which managed to keep Seton Hall in the rear view mirror for the majority of the half.
Coming out of the under-4 timeout, Brandon Mobley hit consecutive 3-pointers (2:38, 1:57), both from the top of the key to give the Pirates their first lead (31-30), of the evening. After the Golden Eagles answered, Brian Oliver and Jaren Sina combined to turn over Marquette's final possession, setting up the final shot for the home team. Sterling Gibbs received the inbounds pass and cleanly traveled coast-to-coast in under 6 seconds, but failed to convert a contested layup that sent the Pirates to the lockers trailing, 34-33.
After 5 lead changes in the opening 6 minutes of the second half, the Pirates looked poised to take control of the action for the first time Tuesday evening. Leading by two, Eugene Teague fought off three Eagles to corral a loose ball rebound on the offensive end, before securing the possession and finding Brian Oliver for a wide open corner 3-pointer, his fourth of the game. Oliver's make which put the Seton Hall FG% near 70% and gave the Pirates a 5-point lead, their largest of the night, forced Buzz Williams into calling a timeout.
The Eagles responded with 6 straight free throws, but following the 11th lead change of the night, Brian "several flaming emoticons" Oliver sank his 5th 3-pointer which put the Pirates back in front, good for contest's 12th lead change. Despite the hot shooting, Marquette dominated the glass (31-19), large in part due to a lack of fundamentals as Seton Hall was regularly beaten on box out attempts throughout the night. The Eagles earned their extra opportunities on the offensive glass in the second half, just as Seton Hall's careless ball security allowed MU to earn extra possessions in the first.
Marquette finished the game on a 27-10 run, that featured near perfect free throw shooting from the Golden Eagles, who spent significant minutes at the stripe, good for 30-of-34 attempts. Once again, Sterling Gibbs was equally cold from the line (4-of-10), contributing to a sub 60% mark from the line for the team.
Falling to 4-7 in the conference, the NIT is beginning to look far from realistic with every passing game. The Pirates will attempt to end their two game losing streak, and begin a new winning streak, as they host one of the hottest team's in the Big East, and possibly the country, in St. John's, on Thursday.