Kevin Willard called Seton Hall's definitive 77-68 loss at No. 11 Wichita State on Tuesday night a "butt-kickin" several times on 970 AM after the game. He also deemed it a "learning experience".
After an optimistic 13-8 start, Seton Hall's offense imploded and only Isaiah Whitehead was able to score over a 16-minute span that featured 12 first half turnovers and 17 Wichita State points off of them. The Shockers were in cruise control for the rest of the game after a commanding surge mid-way through the first half.
Seton Hall now knows how Rutgers felt last Saturday. It wasn't on quite the same level as that game, but it was close. Wichita State got their hands in Seton Hall passing lanes early and often, leading to several easy buckets. The Shockers' defense was formidable and looked much improved since their loss at Utah, though the Utes were able to move the ball in and out of the post much more effectively in their pursuit of finding open shooters. In sum, Seton Hall's defense did not create offense and their offense hurt their defense.
Angel Delgado's inexperience hurt. Delgado played quite well during the first half, but his second offensive foul eight seconds into the second half and his fourth foul picked up just seconds later showed his inexperience. Angel looked surprisingly more comfortable from the free throw line (2-3) than he has all season, but a slight lack of composure hurt him and the team in the second half.
Where was Sterling Gibbs in the first half? Like Gibbs' 40-point effort against Illinois State, it looked like everyone accepted a front row seat to the Isaiah Whitehead show in the first half and forgot to contribute. Seton Hall's offense has looked better in an up-tempo environment that encourages everyone to get involved - that wasn't the case against Wichita State. Everything went through Whitehead in the first half, then Gibbs found his touch after Whitehead was sidelined early in the second. Sterling has 19 points in the box score, but they all came in the second half, with several meaningless triples very late on.
Whitehead has settled in and is comfortable. If there's one main positive Seton Hall fans can take from this loss is that Whitehead's outburst against Rutgers was not a fluke. He followed up with a head-turning first half showing when it seemed like most of his teammates were still on the bus, displaying deadly outside shooting and his usually adept distribution in the lane. In a way, Whitehead looked more like a senior when his excessive jawing toward the Wichita State bench and head coach Gregg Marshall earned him a technical in the first half.
Seton Hall flunked their first road test. The good news? Next Thursday's game at South Florida is a much easier ask of the team and can be used as a tune up of sorts before playing at Georgia days later. The Hall needs to build road warrior confidence somewhere before the Big East.
Jaren Sina appeared to be rattled by Wichita State's fans chanting "air ball" when he had possession for nearly the entire game. This included Sina missing two free throws when looking into the Shockers' student section in the second half. Willard called the atmosphere one of the loudest venues he has ever been in.
On how the game went: "We came out, we made some shots, we were doing a great job defensively - which I was really proud of the guys for - then our turnovers gave them easy buckets. I wouldn't say we got nervous, it was a great atmosphere, it was our first time on the road, we turned the ball over too many times for easy buckets and that really hurts you. When you're on the road, you can't give up easy buckets. To only have six assists and 18 turnovers, you're not going to win on the road."
Offense being out of sync: "That's something they do a really good job of, that's what they're known for: getting up in the passing lanes, being aggressive. You have to be able to beat your guy off the dribble and we did that a little bit, we just didn't make the right plays when we beat that guy - and that's a learning lesson."
On the team's psyche coming into the game: "We didn't practice overly well for the last four days. We're winning games, kind of a little stagnant to be honest with you. When we beat Rutgers the way we did, I was a little worried because we came in Sunday, had a terrible practice Sunday. Didn't really practice well Monday. This is the first time we've had to travel, kind of a new routine. That's what I wanted these guys to get used to, you're going to come in and have a hostile environment [...] It's a building block. I kind of knew what was going to happen, I really did. When you're young and you don't practice well, you're not going to play well."
"It's a great learning lesson for us and it's coming at a great time, it really is. Everyone played hard, even though we were struggling offensively, we still battled for the most part defensively, I was proud of them."
On Wichita State's home court advantage: "This was probably one of the louder places I've been in when they made their run."
On the offensive struggles: "Our biggest efficiency I think right now is we have to get the ball in the low post a little bit. When you cant run your offense as smoothly as you want to, you have to get the ball in the post and we have to get it there early in the offense. Whether it's Angel or Brandon or Desi, we've got to get the ball in the post at times to take pressure off the guards. When they have to create like that, you get tired. You get tired and you take tough shots. When you're fresh you can make them as you get tired you start missing them."
On effort: "All these guys, they battled, they played hard, we just didn't play well offensively. And when you don't play well offensively on the road, you're going to lose. Especially when we turn it over as much as we did in the ways that we did. And even when we had some opportunities to get a steal and get going, we turn it back over. When it's going that way, it's going that way."
Whitehead's injury status: "He's OK, I think he just got his arm wrapped around the guy and twisted it a little bit. He came back in and was OK."