That was a really disheartening way for Seton Hall to end their season, but it's far from a surprise.
Marquette jumped out to a quick 10-2 advantage similar to their 17-4 lead at Prudential Center last month, and a "fragile" Seton Hall truly never recovered after Matt Carlino (26 pts, 8-12 3pt) drilled a couple tough three-pointers in the first half. Marquette was able to get open looks and shot 6 of 12 from beyond the arc before the break.
Seton Hall had a realistic chance to get back in the game after the half, but their offense was forcing things and not working the Golden Eagles' zone laterally enough. As we've seen plenty this year, a crumbling offense caused the Pirates' defense to implode.
Looking forward, Seton Hall (16-15, 6-12) now has an RPI in the 90s and will surely miss out on the NIT after once being a projected four-seed in the NCAA tournament. Kevin Willard referred to the season as being over several times in his post-game press conference and the team will not accept a CBI bid.
Seton Hall never really got off the bus tonight. As soon as I saw Marquette set up in their zone on the Hall's first offensive possession, I knew things would go poorly. An egg they haven't been able to crack over the past few games, Seton Hall wasn't able to pull the right strings against the Golden Eagle zone and their early drought that featured bad turnovers directly resulted in a 32-14 Marquette lead that all but decided the game before halftime.
Kevin Willard didn't enter his three seniors late in the game. I expected to see at least Haralds Karlis coming out of the under-four media timeout (Brandon Mobley sustained a leg injury) to see out his career, but Willard rolled with his young guns to the final buzzer. Stephane Manga also didn't see a minute in his final game, to which Willard simply said "No" when asked if there was anything particular that caused that.
It's probably for the better that this season ended tonight without much of the nation noticing. The collapse has been historic over the past few months and a bid in the NIT probably would have just prolonged the pain for both the players and fans. It seems clear at this point that the tough losses to St. John's, Providence and Georgetown down the stretch broke the Hall's mental will, which Willard described as fragile (see below).
On the team's focus during game: "The first couple shots they hit took a lot of wind out of our sail, we've been getting off to tough starts, we got off to a tough start and we didn't bounce back overly well."
On what has transpired since team was ranked: "I'm so proud of these guys, I'm so proud of the way they've played all year, the effort they've given all year, our tank was a little bit on empty the second half [of the season], but I'm so proud of all those kids in that locker room. I think that's what made it tough for me, for them to go through that and end the year that way ... It's a tough way to end the year, but I can't say a bad thing about those kids all year long."
"We became very fragile the second half of the year, which sometimes happens. When guys bank shots on you a couple times, they're fighting, their grit is still there, they're just not mentally able to get over the hump. It's kind of what we fought the whole second half [of the game], we couldn't just get over the hump when something went bad."
On early success impacting the team's progression: "Yeah I think that has a little bit to do with it. I look at this season as, we we're all playing at a very good level, we lost a very important key to the team at the start of the Big East season, I thought the team did a great job of fighting through losing somebody and then when that piece came back, it was really hard to readjusted roles ... It's tough for them to end the year this way because they deserve a little bit better, they've earned a little bit better, they've worked hard, the attitude has been great, we just got really fragile toward the end of the year."
When asked about the fragility that he mentioned: "When you have as many young guys who never really had to go through what they've went through, playing great competition every night, playing older stronger kids every night, I just think experience counts, I think it's one of the reasons the league is so good because it's so senior- and junior-laden."
On being frustrated with performance in conference play over last five seasons: "I think the thing I'm frustrated the most of, the only year I went gone into Big East play without anyone hurt was my 2nd year ... I think that's my frustration, I think we've gotten to a pretty good point, but once you're going into the toughest part of your season we're adjusting and then we're constantly adjusting and that's the only frustrating part.
On Isaiah Whitehead's performance: "He's not as confident as he was in the beginning of the year, he just hasn't had enough time to practice, enough time to play. He's part of a fragile group."
"Tonight was about as well as we can play."
On stifling Seton Hall with their zone: "I thought we did a nice job of locating their shooters ... Luke [Fischer] in particular did an amazing job of protecting our basket."