-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.
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."