If it hasn't already, Allstate Arena is going to start haunting Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard.
DePaul (11-18, 3-13) erased a 10-game losing streak by outscoring Seton Hall 9-2 after the final media timeout, beating an unimpressive Seton Hall 65-60 in Chicago. The Blue Demon victory came at the expense of a Seton Hall (14-14, 5-10) team that was eyeing but not completely grasping a 4-0 finish that would have put the Pirates in pole position to do damage in the Big East Tournament.
Seton Hall trotted out to an early 11-6 lead that stemmed from a few early DePaul turnovers, but the advantage quickly vanished. Displaying none of the basketball attributes that nearly saw the Pirates nearly upset Creighton two days prior, the Seton Hall offense looked out of sync and the defense was shredded by DePaul. "We were obviously a little emotionally spent," explained Kevin Willard post-game on 970 AM. "We got off to a quick start and sometimes it bites you on the road a little bit, we got a little lackadaisical. They made some tough shots early, I thought we played decent defense early on, then I thought we started breaking down. We didn't play with the same crispness we played with at Creighton. It's a tough loss."
The Blue Demons benefited from hitting 10 of their first 12 field goals leading into the under-8 media timeout, some of which, but not all, were tough shots. The wilting Pirate defense was highlighted by the emergent Forrest Robinson (6 pts), who despite early foul trouble sank two three-pointers after Brandon Mobley (4 pts, 3 rebs) failed to close out on the big man on the first attempt and then Robinson was lost on a rotation on the second attempt.
Perhaps the worst half of offensive basketball from Seton Hall this Big East campaign was partially cloaked by Fuquan Edwin (21 pts, 4 stls) creating turnover after turnover that led to easy run-outs. 11 first half points off of DePaul turnovers kept a nine-point Blue Demon half time lead from turning into a sizable 15-to-20-point cushion.
Inspired at the half, Seton Hall came out of the break on fire from the field, scoring on 9 of their first 11 trips up the court, inciting a 21-6 run. The infusion of offense was due in part to a blatant game plan that didn't rely on one-on-one play and quick jump shots like in the first period, but frequent feeding of Gene Teague (8 pts) in the low post. The dramatic Seton Hall turnaround was quickly quelled after a key timeout from Oliver Purnell just prior to the under-12 media timeout with Seton Hall leading 50-44. Purnell's timeout was the catalyst to a Pirate offensive stretch that came up empty on six straight possessions which in turn gave DePaul an 8-0 run and a 52-50 lead at the under-8. "We had some bad shots when we were up, we took three really bad shots in a row," admitted Willard.
With the game in the balance, Brian Oliver (3 pts) and Billy Garrett Jr. combined for a sequence that required the official's monitor to decide. Oliver was intentionally tripped by Garrett Jr. during a half court scramble that resulted in Garrett Jr. being tied up by Oliver for a foul under Seton Hall's basket. Garrett Jr. threw his elbows in an attempt to get Oliver off of him after the whistle and was given a flagrant one for the prior trip upon review.
Shortly after the tempo-killing monitor review, a Kevin Willard timeout prior to the under-4 break produced two made baskets including Jaren Sina's (12 pts, 4-4 3pt) fourth triple on the night and a tough Gene Teague field goal from the paint. The back-to-back baskets would be Seton Hall's last display of offensive competence on the night. After the final media break, the Pirates scored on just one of six possessions and had their back broken by a 30-foot circus shot from Durrell McDonald that gave DePaul a 61-58 lead that the hosts would not relinquish.
Playing with a taped thumb over the final six minutes, Fuquan Edwin missed a three and then fumbled the ball on his next touch resulting in an easy DePaul basket. These two empty possessions followed McDonald's killer three-ball and gave the Blue Demons a five-point lead that couldn't be overcome by a late Teague basket while triple-teamed and a correctly overturned turnover on DePaul's ensuing inbound pass that sealed the game.
"To feel so good about your team after Creighton and to have such a letdown is tough," said Kevin Willard. " But we've got to bounce back."
Seton Hall's loss ensured that they would finish below .500 on the Big East season and severely crippled their odds of receiving a first round bye in the Big East Tournament. The offense curiously did not benefit much from the return of Sterling Gibbs, who scored three points in just 13 minutes of action. DePaul's victory snapped a 10-game skid and was their first win since January 14th. The Blue Demons were led by Brandon Young's 19 points and were helped out by 15 points from both Billy Garrett Jr. and Durrell McDonald.