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Seton Hall Basketball: Final - Dayton 69, Seton Hall 65 in Second-Half Christmas Collapse

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Eniel Polynice's coming out party in the first half will be largely quieted by Seton Hall's second-half collapse.
Eniel Polynice's coming out party in the first half will be largely quieted by Seton Hall's second-half collapse.

-Christmas Collapse.  

-After playing their best twenty minutes of the season, Seton Hall entered the locker room at the intermission holding a comfortable 14-point advantage. Just as a flight has the potential to hit unexpected turbulence, nobody saw this coming. The Flyers surged from the second half whistle and the Pirates didn't have an answer to their effort and energy. 

-The Christmas Collapse all began with Kevin Willard's series of questionable decisions to kick off the second half, let's look at them, shall we? 

  • Kevin Willard started the second with the same lineup he rolled out in the first half.  Nevermind what was working late in the first half.  For a coach that has been rewarding/disciplining his team all season long, where was EP? Polynice was easily the most impressive player in the first half, dominating every aspect of the game.  Where was he to start the second half?  Not on the floor? For what reason?  
  • After starting the first half in man-to-man, Kevin Willard switched to the 2-3 zone and the Pirates defense went to work on the Flyers, holding them to 28% over the first 20 minutes.  The second half? Willard went back to the man-to-man and the Flyers took advantage as the defense turned from crisp to lazy almost as soon as the switch was made.  The Pirates simply couldn't keep up with their more athletic opponent, something that the 2-3 zone worked well to counter.  Before Willard went back to M/2/M, it was too late, the lead was just about erased.    
  • When Willard checked EP back into the game, 5 minutes had passed and Seton Hall's lead was cut to just 6 points. Polynice was inserted as the only point-guard on the floor.  The problem with this?  His strong-play in the first half often came when he was in the 3 or the 4 against less-athletic defenders, with Keon or JT running the offense.  He was inserted at PG, asked to bring the ball up and almost instantly, he and Jeff Robinson had a miscue and promptly turned the ball over.  
  • In need of depth, where was Anali Okoloji? Patrik Auda picked up his 4th foul with 14 minutes and fouled out with 9 minutes.  It wasn't worth it to save Auda's fouls on the bench with a few minutes from Okoloji?  
  • Lastly, I've been on Jeff Robinson for it all year, but I can't do it anymore.  If he's allowed to do it, it needs to fall on the head coach.  JRob led off the first possession of the second-half and fired a quick 3PT attempt. It felt like the success of the first half (pounding the ball inside to Pope and Robinson, the slashing, the short jumpers, attacking the rim) was forgotten at halftime.  That falls on Willard. What is the consequence for wasted possessions and bad shot attempts?  Is there a consequence, or is Willard still preaching that his players are free to launch away? That's all nice and well and will make you a player's coach, however, the philosophy is going to cost you games. Again, there needs to be a consequence for wasted possessions, it's time to sit some players on the bench.  
-Yes, Robinson began the second half with a poor choice of shot-selection but, I don't want that one play to take away from what was a solid performance.  There was some good; he showed flashes in the first half of returning to the post player that was dominant for stretches last season, finishing with 15PTS/3REB on 6-of-11 shooting.  There was some bad; as has been the story all season, 3REB from JRob is not nearly enough.  When is Willard going to force him off of the perimeter and FIGHT for rebounds? How many losses must we compile before we match our best players with their best strengths? I often think of Morgan Wooten's words when watching our bigs fire away from the perimeter.  

One of my favorite and most recommended book on the game of basketball is Wooten's, "Coaching Basketball Successfully." The following is an excerpt where the former DeMatha coach speaks on the intelligence of playing within a player's abilities:
They do what they can do well, but they do not try to do the things they cannot do well.  I'm sure you've heard the old coaching cliche that "a player must play within himself."  That means we must help our players learn their strengths.  We must remind them, "Do what you do best.  Don't try to shoot three-point shots if your range is 15 feet.  And don't try to dunk the ball on the fast break if you can't jump that high." 
-Jordan Theodore, who was surging full speed ahead into BIG EAST play, was outright terrible tonight.  Outright terrible. Before two late 3-pointers that dropped when the game was all but over, he was 3-of-15 from the floor.  Yes, he only had 3TOs on the night, but he's taking too many poor shot attempts that have little-to-no chance of falling.  In my eyes, that's just as bad as a turnover and I counted at least 4 forced, bad shots. Whether they're near impossible lay-up attempts or penetration into contested lanes before putting up a forced shot, he's a smarter player than what he showed tonight.  I understand he's trying to draw fouls, but when the refs are letting them play, he needs to pull the ball back out and be more patient.  JTs stat line (13PTS/5AST/2STL/2REB/3TO) won't look so bad in the newspaper, but I know he'll be the first one to admit that he needs to play smarter.  

-After a strong first half, Herb Pope failed to record a point in the second half.  I'd say he was non-existent, but he did rip down an additional 7 boards, many offensive, providing extra opportunities for his teammates.  That said, the Herb Pope that frequently took over games last season seems to be completely, gone.  The gift and the curse?  He's struggling mightily this year, but I think it's pretty apparent he won't be going anywhere next season.  

-With the loss of Ferrakohn Hall, Patrik Auda was a body tonight.  5PF in 15 minutes with only 2PTS/2REB?  With the front-court extremely thin, Auda needs to play a bit more in control.  Of course, if Anali Okoloji could get in the game to spell him, Patrik might last longer than 15 minutes.  

-Fuquan Edwin was en route to another big game (2-of-3 from 3PT) and nearly notched a double-double (10PTS/9REB) in 28 minutes, but struggled to find his mid-range game in the second half tonight.  

-Jamel Jackson was 0-for-5 from long-distance tonight.  Inconsistency is beginning to rear it's ugly head with JJax this season.  

-The second half collapse quieted the Eniel Polynice coming out party.  EP's monster first half (11PTS/4AST/3REB/3BLK/STL/0TO) was put to waste as he watched much of the collapse while sitting on the bench to start the second half.  He finished with 13PTS/5AST/4BLK/4REB/STL/0TO.  Polynice was impressive tonight, that's the impact transfer we thought we were getting.  Hopefully, he's going to be rewarded for his play with consistent minutes.  We will see.  

-Excellent work by John Lopiano and J.P Guerette on WSOU tonight.  John's play-by-play and J.P.'s reporting were both phenomenal.  And man, Hall Line was entertaining.  "You guys aren't being honest with yourself," "Who would you rather have, Willard, that Rutgers guy, or Lavin, c'mon guys, guys, guys, be honest with yourself, now, guys" "Mike Glover, Bobby, Mike Glover, Bobby, Glover, Bobby, Can we get Mike Glover back at Seton Hall?" Great job keeping your calm with the callers guys.  

-Check back for J.P.'s 5-Thoughts tomorrow at noon.