Mike Rice recorded his second career victory over Kevin Willard as his Scarlet Knights defeated a lifeless Seton Hall Pirates this afternoon for the first time in three seasons. Rutgers struck first in the new look rivalry limiting the Pirates to just 60 points. The Scarlet Knights turned the ball over 13 times and only converted 13-of-27 of their FTs, but it wouldn't matter. When your opposition's offense is as abysmal as Seton Hall's, you're going to scratch out wins like they did today.
We're now 20 games into the season and I'm still struggling to comprehend what the plan on the offensive end is supposed to be. Over the last two weeks, we've seen Seton Hall make a more concerted effort to pound the ball inside to Pope and Jeff Robinson, moving away from the early "Hazell-less" gameplan of everybody shoot-a-three. Today, they regressed. Attempting TWENTY-SEVEN 3-pointers, the Pirates hit just six of them. How many 3-point shooting performances must the Pirates make us suffer through before Kevin Willard adjusts and attempts to attack the opponent another way? From the amount of atrocious shooting performances we've seen through just twenty games, I don't think there's going to be any adjustments to Willard's game planning.
How does Kevin Willard allow Seton Hall to show up lifeless against their intrastate rival? In a season that is all but lost without a thing to play for except potentially an NIT-bid, how can his players not be excited to play Rutgers? This was basically their season. Beat your rival, make your University proud for an afternoon and move on. Kevin Willard was badly out-coached this afternoon. Badly.
Despite limiting himself to two (or less) 3PA in his last 3-of-4 games, Jeff Robinson decided to launch SEVEN from beyond the arc this afternoon. There must have been an NBA scout or two in attendance. He did hit two of them, which is right in line with his 29% season average. Gone was the masterful mid-range game and the powerful finishing around the rim we've seen as of late. Back was the "half of my shot attempts will be 3-pointers" mindset. Why are we still talking about this 20 games into the season? We knew it was a problem before we left the Virgin Islands. When will Kevin Willard put an end to this ridiculousness of Jeff Robinson's (and Herb Pope's) shot selection? It's not all bad though, this is a high-school recruits dream, to come to a college where you are allowed to take any shot that you want and there won't be reprucussions. Again, it's just ridiculous.
As good as Seton Hall's defense has been for much of the year, there were multiple breakdowns in the second half that allowed Rutgers to put this game away after Seton Hall pulled within 4 with 7:30 to go. I counted three consecutive possessions where the Pirates were late in their 2-3 zone rotations leaving a man wide open to knock down open 18-footers from the wing. For much of the year, the defense has been superb, but we've learned when coupled with a lack of an offensive plan you won't win many games. When you have no offense and the defense isn't superb such as we saw in the second half, this Pirates squad will not win a single game.
The seesaw that has been Jordan Theodore's season and career for that matter continues to waver. After an impressive and turnover-less performance against the Hoyas, JT shows up against Rutgers and turns the ball over four times. Jordan's issue has long been that he tends to play the game faster than the rest of his teammates. Time and time again, JT tries to force a pass to his teammates cutting or in the post and the result is either a deflection off of the Pirates and out of bounds or a bad pass which ends up in the opponents hands heading the other direction. He did shoot the rock well today at 5-of-8, ripped down 5 boards and recorded 2 assists, but his decision making today (including fouling out) outweighs many of his positives.
The Seton Hall bench logged 37 minutes and contributed all of 4 points, 2 of which came on free-throws by Aaron Geramipoor.
A lone bright spot for the Pirates this afternoon was the play of Herb Pope. Despite a poor shooting afternoon (5-for-14) including two mind-boggling 3-point attempts, he still battled and played hard recording 15PTS/16REB.
View the carnage in it's entirety by way of a box score, here.
This afternoon Seton Hall and Kevin Willard had the opportunity to give the University and their fanbase something to take joy in and feel prideful about in what's been nothing short of a nightmare season. What transpired was a lifeless, apathetic effort by the players on the floor in the blue and white. It's unfortunate, but the reality is, things are going to get worse before they get better. A lot worse.