Hosting Villanova at the Prudential Center for one final home game before departing on a 3-game road trip, the undermanned and undersized Pirates fell to the Wildcats 83-67 on Wednesday evening. Without Fuquan Edwin and centers Gene Teague and Aaron Geramipoor, Seton Hall laced up their sneakers and ran as hard as they could, for as long as they could. In the end, they were simply outmatched by a superior and more talented basketball team, who just happens to be ranked among the nation's top-10.
After Brian Oliver and Ryan Arcidiacono traded 3-pointers to open tonight's play, Villanova employed their signature frenzied offensive attack, essentially turning the game into half-part track meet and half-part 3 point contest. There were a few early signs that the Pirates would have trouble keeping pace with the Wildcats after they failed to make a 2-point field goal and found themselves trailing by double digits midway through the first. Ryan Arcidiacono (12 points, 3-of-6 3pt) and Darrun Hilliard (11 points, 2-of-2 3pt) led the 'Nova attack in the first frame, who shot 7-of-14 from long distance as a team, while Seton Hall countered with only 4 made triples, including 2 makes from Brian Oliver.
On the defensive end, Villanova frustrated Seton Hall with frequent traps and an effective 3/4 court press, turning the Pirates over 7 times in the first half. Coming out of the under-4 timeout, Seton Hall made the most of their freebies, converting all 4 attempts from the stripe while Villanova missed 4 of their final 5 shot attempts. Most importantly, Seton Hall managed to secure the tiniest sliver of momentum, inching closer, to cut the deficit to just 38-32 at intermission.
In the second half, the Wildcats once again raced out to a ten-point lead, but the Pirates managed to cut the deficit in half with 15:45 to play. In nearly identical fashion to the game's first 20 minutes, every time Seton Hall came within striking distance, Villanova answered. Sterling Gibb's 3-pointer (15:45), pulled the Pirates within 5, but was met with a 3-pointer from Darrun Hillard (15:26). Brandon Mobley's power dunk (11:51) breathed a little life back into the Rock, but was answered by a Dylan Ennis 3-pointer (11:39) on the following possession. Following a full timeout by Kevin Willard after Villanova had taken their largest lead, Patrik Auda converted a tough layup, took contact and made his free throw. As you might have guessed, it too was answered, by a Josh Hart (9:09) 3-pointer.
Every Seton Hall bucket, every mini-run, had an answer from the Wildcats. The Pirates were unable to get any defensive stops in the second half, and it made all the difference, as their offense simply couldn't keep up with Villanova's firepower. The Seton Hall offense wasn't particularly bad, in fact, they shot the ball pretty well from the field (42% 3PT, 45% FG), but without any defensive stops there was little they could do to slow down the Wildcats.
The Pirates now head west, sporting a 1-2 conference record for a Saturday afternoon contest with Marquette. They'll play their next 3 on the road (MQ, GU, SJU), before returning to the Prudential Center on January 25th for a date with Butler. It would be a realistic expectation to think Seton Hall can win one game during their upcoming road trip, while getting a couple healthy bodies back before taking on two winnable home games (Butler, DePaul) to end the month of January.