Defense, effort comes too late as Seton Hall sees four-game streak snapped by Butler

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NEWARK – I wouldn’t chalk it up to a self-fulfilling prophecy, but Kevin Willard warned us post-Georgetown that he didn’t think his team was where they should be defensively, and boy did it show in an 81-75 loss to a fun-to-watch Butler team on Wednesday at Prudential Center.

“I’m going to be a little critical,” prefaced Willard late on Saturday night after beating Georgetown. “I don’t think we’re as good defensively as we need to be or can be.”

Fast-forward four days later and Seton Hall put up what was perhaps their worst defensive effort of the season, albeit against a very well-drilled Butler team that got what it wanted on the offensive end all night.

Even when Kellen Dunham wasn’t scoring on back-door cuts in the second half or Kelan Martin scoring every which way in and around the paint, Butler was able to hit back-breaking shots like Tyler Wideman’s baseline jumper late in the second half or of course Roosvelt Jones’ textbook looping floater in the lane to ice the game with 20 seconds left.

“Coach is ready to kill us man,” said Isaiah Whitehead post-game, the first words out of his mouth. “That was probably the worst defensive game all year, I think it was even worse than Creighton because it was just blatant wide open shots and just giving up open lanes, it was horrible today but we’re going to bounce back.”

Whitehead, who kept his team in the game after going 7-for-7 from beyond the arc in the first half en route to 26 points and 10 dimes, couldn’t have been more frustrated and up front with the team’s defending.

“It’s just about getting stops, and that’s all you can really say about that, we just didn’t get stops,” said the sophomore. “They shot 55% from the field, that’s unheard of you, you can’t win games like that.”

Although Seton Hall displayed some decent defense over the opening 20 including holding Kellen Dunham (18 pts) scoreless, they clearly didn’t have the same energy that was displayed in a relentless 40 minutes against Georgetown days prior.

“We just didn’t have the same energy and the same defense that we’ve had over the last four games,” observed Kevin Willard. “They did a really good job at driving late in the shot-clock. We gave up too many easy layups and it gets deflating after a while.”

“It starts from me,” said team leader Derrick Gordon. “I didn’t bring it the way I usually do. I take a lot of the losses personal and it starts with me. I’m going to blame myself this game because if I came out ready to play, we would have won this game but I didn’t come out and look what happened, we lost.”

Gordon tracked Dunham off the ball like a hunting dog for the first 20 minutes but he also had a hand in several turnovers and just didn’t have it offensively (4 pts, 2-5 fg, 0-2 ft). After the half, Dunham was able to beat him off the dribble time and time again, getting to the lane with ease.

“We weren’t communicating, we were just all over the place. We weren’t playing like we usually play,” said a dejected but honest Gordon. “We got caught up into worrying about the offensive end too much. It showed on defense, letting guys get open, me getting back-doored. It’s just a number of things that usually don’t happen.”

Despite the lackadaisical defense, Seton Hall was able to amp up the pressure over the closing minutes and turned a 9-point deficit at the under-four into just 2 with a little over a minute to play. A Gordon deflection set the Pirates up to tie the game down three, but Ismael Sanogo would split a pair at the line, setting up Roosevelt Jones’ late floater to seal it.

“That was a tough shot. He does floaters, that’s all he’s did his whole college career,” said Gordon of Jones. “That was my fault, I should have switched off onto him, I should have guarded him on that last possession knowing he was going to take that last shot.”

While disheartening, it’s important to look at the big picture: Seton Hall going 2-1 on this 3-game homestand is a success, not to mention they were in this game to the wire despite playing less-than-stellar.

“It’s not a setback for us at all,” proclaimed Gordon. “We still know that we can still get there [the NCAA tournament]. We know that we have a lot of games to play, we’re not going to let one game affect us.”

  • Matty P

    If you went into the game saying that the team would score 75 points, that Whitehead was going to score an efficient 26 and have 10 assists and that the team would have 20 assists, 7 steals, and 7 blocked shots you would have thought there was no way we would lose with the way the defense has been playing. Unfortunately tonight the defense lacked energy and focus and allowed too many easy baskets and it resulted in a loss. Hopefully with a week off this team can rest up, watch film, and improve on their mistakes from tonight.

    With a week to prepare for the Georgetown game they have no excuses to not come out strong and come away with a win and start a 2 game winning streak heading into the Providence and Xavier games at home. Can’t let one bad game turn into a tailspin this late in the season.

  • Andrew Herbst

    Tough loss today. Defense didn’t have the same intensity or focus. We lacked energy and really struggled with getting rebounds and gave Butler too many second chance opportunities. However, we can’t this one loss get us down. We have a week to prepare for G-town. Hopefully we can learn from this game and improve. We still have 6 games left. Have to win our next 2 and then we can focus on Providence and Xavier.

  • Jersey Jerry

    Every time there’s talk about Top 25 (#31 in this week’s poll) we come out flat … don’t know why, but we do. Silly TO’s early on put us in the hole and then again coming out after half and we get two TO’s right off the bat. Didn’t think Coach used his bench very good tonight (much better vs G’town) and now we have a week off before going down to DC vs G’town again. That game will be a lot different than last Saturday’s for sure!

  • SHULaw05

    Jerry Carino’s post game recap says it all about our defense, or lack thereof, tonight. He quoted one of the Butler players as loudly stating in the team huddle in the 2nd half, “They don’t want to guard.” Enough said. This team is so much better than that, and just seemed that they woke up on the wrong side today. I know this team has heart and they will bounce back with a vengeance. They just need to play like there is no tomorrow. Apparently Butler got the memo.

  • Joe Schmoe

    I had a bad feeling when I saw the gray uni’s with block letters….

    • Joe Schmoe

      Does SHU charter flights when our team travels?

  • Fishjam

    CHRIS – Can you help answer a couple of questions please?

    1 – Why did our RPI drop so badly?

    Before the Butler gae we were #32 I believe and we dropped to #56 following the game. I know home losses aren’t good but Butler shouldn’t qualify as a bad loss right? Did Providence losing to Creighton take the luster off our win @ Prov?

    2 – Does KenPom have a stat to quantify things like ‘bunnies’, fumbles, loose-balls?

    It seems we miss so many easy shots under the basket and layups. Is their a stat for shots around the rim? Also seems we mishandle or fumble a lot of rebounds & looseballs. Obviously turnovers are tallied but does it break down types of turnovers?

  • VinBick

    The break this week should be helpful regaining energy and defensive focus. There were a lot of guys standing flat-footed while the Butler players were constantly moving toward the ball in 50-50 situations. Guys appeared tired, and there was a lot of standing in one spot on offense.

    As said before, need three more wins in regular season, and probably two in our BE Garden Party to earn a spot in the Big Dance. Four wins over the next six games are possible. Go Pirates!

    • Matty P

      The team has pretty much gone to a 6-7 man rotation at this point in the season which seems to be wearing the players down a little when they have a number of games in a row. Would be nice if Willard could find a way to incorporate Singh into the rotation to be more of an energy player and help space the offensive side of the ball.

      • Fishjam

        The guys I see wearing down are Khadeen & Gordon . With our lack of backcourt depth and playing some 3-guard sets, we ask a lot of our guards.

        Dino hit a brick wall around mid-season and has been a shell of himself. He isn’t slashing to the basket with the same aggressiveness, he settles for too many 3s, he’s missing open 3s, he’s often a step late on defense and just lacks the same explosiveness we came to love about him. Those are my observations watching the games……these are strictly the numbers:

        First 7 Big East Games vs Last 5 Big East Games
        17.1 ppg – 35.3% 3pt (12-34) – 54.2% 2pt – 80.0% FT
        9.9 ppg – 19.2 % 3pt (5-26) – 48.2% 2pt – 62.5% FT

        Gordon’s issues are he’s shown fatigue after a series of intense, physical games. He went all-out in consecutive games vs Nova, @ Prov and @ XAV. And then again vs Creighton, Marquette & Georgetown then looked gassed vs Butler. I think he’s wise enough and has the mental toughness to dig deep and bounce back strong after this week break. He knows this last stretch of games mean everything and are all he has left in his college career.

        I’m more concerned about Dino…..I hope it’s just a combo of mid-year fatigue and scouting reports daring him to shoot. I really hope it’s not anything off the court affecting him and that with this week of preperaion and recovery, he will be back to his dangerous, attacking style.

        • Matty P

          It’s interesting and concerning to see those statistics regarding Carrington. I’m also more worried about over working him vs overworking Gordon since he’s avg 4 less minutes per game vs prior seasons and being a senior he knows the grind of a season better.
          Unfortunately having only 3 guards and running 3 guard sets is going to wear those guys down with the heavy minutes. I think this staff is going to need to find a way to balance those minutes during these last 3 weeks and the BE tournament. I’m not sure if that means to give Desi more minutes or incorporate Singh more into the game plans.

        • PadrePirate

          Interesting. But odd that we go 3-4 over those first 7 games, and 4-1 over the last 5. Not trying to imply that Dino is not a key element to our success…

          The inside game has picked up of late, but a more potent guard threat spreads the offense. IW’s latest 7 for 7 aside, we have not shown a perimeter threat, and that hurts. Gtown game showed.

          When Dino’s hot, it certainly takes pressure off of IW and DG. Much rather have DG pour his energy out on D, with the other two guards carrying the offense.

  • fouline

    And some people thought the OCS was better than last year? Huh!!?? Considering how the team has shaped up it shows a lack of faith in the team by the coaching staff and admin.

    • Fishjam

      You are correct Fouline. From what I am reading, the Pirates resume is not impressing a lot of people and has them squarely on the bubble, either out of the Field or in a play-in game. Its amazing how 1 loss can change the tone of things. The Butler game really hurt their chances because it not only dropped our standing it leap-frogged Butler ahead of us. It makes the 2nd game at their place a potential do or die game.

      The Pirates RPI has taken a big hit this last week as Providence, Wichita St, Georgetown, Ole Miss & Georgia also lost gmes which lessens the strength of our Wins. The biggest problems with our Resume are the terrible OOC schedule (ranked 254th), the lack of Top 50 Wins (only 2 since many of the above teams have dropped) and the lack of any one big Signature victory (0-3 vs Top 25). Pulling out that Villanova game would have done it.

      They still have a chance for that signature win vs Xavier and possibly vs Nova or Xavier in the BE tourney. Without a signature Win and nothing they can do about their OOC schedue now, they have to put a no doubt exclamation point on these last 6 games and the Big East Tourney. In my eyes they need 4 of the next 6 with at least 1 of the wins coming @ Butler or vs Xavier and a minimum of 1 win in the BET.

      • PadrePirate

        Sounds tough. A week ago, after Gtown, I really thought we were NCAA bound. The BU loss, plus our vanquished foes losing status, has kind of put us in a hole. The boys will need to finish strong to Dance. Last two games have not been overly impressive.

        This is a very emotional team. 4 of 6, nor a Xavier win, is impossible, but they will need all the heart and intensity they’ve got to get there. We’re not the smartest team or most skilled, but if they can build momentum vs. Gtown and the Johnnies, maybe we can take P and X at home.

        Xavier looks like the only shot at a “signature win” we’ve got left. Not sure if we’d meet V in the second round of BET.

        Is Creighton in a better position than us to capture the last BE bid?

        • Fishjam

          The projections I’ve seen are not kind to the Big East at all. Most have 4 teams, some have 5 including Butler & Seton Hall at the backend. Creighton is not close from what I’ve seen as their RPI is 86. Their win over Xavier was big and keeps them alive but what hurts them is they had no quality wins OOC. Their best win was over 161st Nebraska. They aren’t out of it if they close strong.

          Check out this NY Post article which talks about a Mock Bracket picked by members of the press guided by actual Selection Commitee members.

          http://nypost.com/2016/02/12/mock-ncaa-bracket-takeaways-seton-hall-on-edge-big-12-power/

          • PadrePirate

            Thanks for link. I don’t get why the BE is not looked upon as a strong conf. We’ve had 4 teams in the top 25 for most of the season. Is there any synthetic way to look back and see which conference beat the others most often in head to head OOC games? I may be wrong, but I seem to remember BE teams schooling other supposedly strong SEC or ACC teams early in the season.

      • fouline

        Fish, I know we shouldn’t look back… But we are paying for it now. While we are rounding into shape so are the other top teams in the BE. That makes it even harder for us to win. Coaching may be the difference. Can Willard & Company rise to the occasion. The players have. Let’s see.

      • Matty P

        Unfortunately for us the one metric that the committee looks at the most is the RPI which has us at 49. Both kenpom and sagarin have us in a better position at 36 (kenpom) and 42 (sagarin). In the end they need to take 4 of 6 and get a win or 2 in the BE tournament and everything else will take care of itself.

        • Fishjam

          Yes, Committee is big on RPI but they will overlook RPI if there are other things they like/dislike. For instance, we have a better RPI (51) than Butler (64) but they have the signature win (Xavier) and beat us on our homecourt so most everyone has them in over us. So much can change over the final 3-4 weeks and the results of conference tournaments can add or steal available at-large bids. Seton Hall holds their fate in their own hands and need to treat every game the rest of the way as a playoff game. DSR is going to be looking for payback so the team better be ready.

  • Matty P

    Looks like SHU might catch a little bit of a break against Georgetown with Hayes breaking his hand in practice and being out indefinitely.

    • SHULaw05

      Georgetown game on Wednesday has become a crucial road game for us to begin our final regular season stretch. Gtown isn’t going to be easy. Our defense and rebounding must be firing on all cylinders. Our players have to be hungry and aggressive from the opening tip. Can’t look beyond Wednesday right now. Only game that matters for us is our next opponent in DC. Pirates can do it.

      • LBP

        Agree 100%–GTown will have little home court advntage–seems like their Fans have given up–GTown hs so much talent and so little to show this year

        • Fishjam

          So true LBP. When you look at their individual players, it’s shocking they haven’t won more games. Everyone knows DSR but LJ Peak, Copeland, Derrickson & Govan are all serious talents. DSR was held in check the first game but he’s capable of taking over a game at anytime. The key with GTown is playing tight 3-point defense…..they can shoot it and can get hot if you don’t stay in their face. Exploit our edge on the glass and get Angel involved early and often. G’Town is a dangerous team if they play together and would give us a solid road win against a decent opponent (RPI #79) .

          On the Bubble Watch….Creighton had a big week with the win over Xavier and have a big match-up tomorrow with Butler. Really don’t know who to root for in that game. Right now Butler is ahead of us in the NCAA picture so definitely need them to lose but it would put Creighton 9-5 in conference and surging. Only thing hurting them is their #81 RPI. A lot of teams have gained on the Pirates as the Butler loss and the week off has put some distance since their last win.

  • Fishjam

    Butler got blown out of their own gym today by Xavier. The same team that tore up our defense for 81 ptsand shot 56% got bottled up by Xavier’s defense scoring 57 pts on 33% from the field.