Seton Hall traveled to the Hinkle Field House in Indianapolis, in search of a two-game win streak as they prepare for the Big East Tournament in New York next week. Unfortunately, the search came up empty as the Butler Bulldogs secured a two-game win streak of their own, defeating Seton Hall 71-54, setting up a first round rematch with the Pirates on Wednesday evening. With the loss, the Pirates finished their regular season below .500, (15-16, 6-12), for the second straight season.
Butler jumped all over Seton Hall from the opening tip, as a soft match-up zone look allowed the Bulldogs to abuse the Pirates from the perimeter. To veer off topic momentarily, I sincerely hope the athletic guards brought in next season will allow Willard to play more man-to-man on the perimeter. Sophomore guard, Kellen Dunham (29 points, 7-of-8 3PT), spent the afternoon draining open looks from all over the arc, as he converted his first 5 attempts en route to 19 first-half points.
His teammates followed his lead, hitting a combined 8 3-pointers, before Andrew Chrabascz finally overshot a corner heat-check with 5:46 remaining.The Bulldogs would lead by as many as 20, before the Pirates responded with an 8-0 run, sparked by Sterling Gibbs which kept the deficit manageable for the time being. The half's final minute featured a well executed bank field-goal from Brian Oliver, followed by a pair of free throws by Gene Teague to cut the deficit to 10 at half time.
Other than the aforementioned Sterling Gibbs run, Patrik Auda was pretty much the lone bright spot of Seton Hall's first half. Without his 13 first half points (5-of-8) and a huge 3-pointer to pull Seton Hall within 12, the Pirates would have been absent any significant offensive contributions. Taking Auda and Gibbs out of the equation, there wasn't a single Pirate to score more than 4 points in the first 20 minutes, a product of a vanilla offense when Gene Teague (10pts/5reb) is taken out of the equation.
Any momentum Seton Hall managed to borrow heading into halftime was promptly returned to Butler before the basketball was inbounded to begin the second half. Andrew Chrabascz and Kellen Dunham combined for a pair of 3-pointers, before Alex Barlow's jumpshot extended the lead back to 18 points (16:17) just in front of the under-16 timeout. Kellen Dunham's SEVENTH bomb was followed by a questionable flagrant-1 foul on Brandon Mobley, but, frustration had set in long before the call. Similarly, the eventual outcome had been all but determined much earlier in the afternoon.
It took a 22-point lead and 8 minutes remaining in regulation before we had a Stephane Manga sighting. I'm not really sure what the deal is here, he hasn't been suspended, so we know his attitude in practice isn't a problem. He'll be a senior next year on an extremely young team, and at the end of a lost season, you'd expect him to see more than the 7 minutes he's logged in the 3 games heading into tonight. Furthermore, he's shown some good things on the offensive end in limited action this season: some handle, an ability to penetrate, and he can finish just as good as anyone on the team. Why won't Kevin Willard bring him off the bench? I'm sure publicly, it would fall on his defensive ability, but, nonetheless, it was nice to see him get some burn, even though it came during Butler's mop-up duty.
Yet again, a disappointing regular season has come to an end for the Seton Hall Pirates. A feeling that I, and I'm sure the majority of you, are all too familiar with in recent years. With an influx of highly talented high school seniors ready to come in next season, the hope is that next year will FINALLY be the year that this program turns around. We'll have one long offseason to debate whether or not those expectations will come to fruition, but for now, it's on to the Big East Tournament. It's supposed to be difficult to beat a team three times in one season. After getting swept by Butler this season, at least Seton Hall has the law of averages working for them.
As always, Let's Go Pirates.