Another day, another heartbreaking loss.
To tell you the truth, I really thought the Pirates had this one. Everything was in the stars for a big win, including some gifts from both the officials and the opponents.
The Thoughts from a rough night at the Rock:
- The (almost) comeback
The story of the night was Villanova's turnovers- they committed 11 in the first half, and 11 more in the second half for a total of 22 to the Pirates' 7. Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns were basically bottled up, committing 6 turnovers apiece. Because of the TOs, the Pirates were tied at the half. The struggles continued for the Wildcats into the second half, but then they put a temporary stop to the miscues, and built up a 9-point lead at the 5:34 mark.
But then the turnovers started again. And it let the Pirates back in a game they should never have been that close in. The crowd began to recognize that the Cats were giving the game away, something the Pirates almost did numerous times last season. The atmosphere got more and more hyped with every bad pass, every mistake that the Pirates turned into points on the other end.
And then Jeremy Hazell missed two shots that he most certainly can make- a driving layup in a bit of traffic, and a deep three-point shot from practically Livingston as the clock was winding down. And that was pretty much it. I poured all my might into cheering for the Pirates, and after Hazell's last shot bounded off the rim, I felt like crying. I thought that shot was going in. I really did.
- James Bell?!
I thought the guard who would step up off the bench in this game would be Dominic Cheek, the St. Anthony's grad. I was wrong.
Bell, who had scored just 31 points all season long, hit for 21 off the Villanova bench, including 4-6 on threes, in 29 minutes. He shot 7-9 from the field overall, which is something the Pirates didn't do (see my next thought). His play really picked up the Wildcats and with Fisher and Wayns both having pretty much terrible nights, if you want to see why Villanova won this game, look no further than Bell.
There's a saying that coaches don't want "shooting guards"- they want "MAKING guards." The Pirates need some of those right now.
It's painfully obvious on a night like this that Seton Hall can't shoot. Worst in the Big East for practically the entire season, the Pirates shot just 33% for the game, including a putrid 4-26 from deep. When the Pirates make shots (as they did in Syracuse), they can beat just about anyone. But they do this so infrequently that it's getting to be obvious that the pace that this team played at last year was the reason that they were able to score so many points. Aside from a healthy Jeremy Hazell, who can make a shot on this team? The answer- no one.
- Marquette W?
The Pirates have not knocked off Marquette since the 1950s in the NIT, and this next game is on the road (yours truly will be calling all the action on 89.5 FM WSOU and WSOU.net), but something the Golden Eagles do not do very well is close out close games. Tuesday's loss to St. John's was their first of the year by double digits, and it will be very interesting to see who can close it out between these two teams who can't seem to pull that off if the game becomes close. The Golden Eagles have also not been very consistent on defense this season, although they score more than any other Big East team. I'll have a full preview of the game on Friday on South Orange Juice.
- Hazell Watch
Jeremy Hazell hit 4 threes on Tuesday, putting him one away from tying Colin Falls' Big East three-pointers record, of 189 made in conference play. Four more threes, and he'll tie Terry Dehere's Seton Hall career threes record (315). All of these are doable on Saturday night. Keep an eye out, people- we probably won't see such a prolific shooter for a very long time here at Seton Hall.