Five Thoughts, Five Quotes: Comeback comes up short as Seton Hall falls at No. 21 Marquette, 70-66

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Faced with a 13-point deficit in the closing seconds of the first half, a late Myles Powell three sparked a second half comeback that fell short in the final minute as Seton Hall dropped their second Big East road game, 70-66, to Marquette.

After Powell gave his team some juice heading into the locker room with an off-balanced three to cut it to 40-30, he ultimately made a questionable decision to dish to Quincy McKnight on Seton Hall’s second to last possession before Marquette learned from prior Big East mistakes and fouled on the Hall’s final possession, up three, to seal the game.

Seton Hall drops to 12-5 (3-2) with a road game at Providence on Tuesday before coming home for DePaul next Saturday.

Five Thoughts

Defending 50-point threat Markus Howard (26 pts, 6 asts, 6 rebs, 5 TOs) was an overall success. In the first half, Seton Hall did a pretty good job to hold him to 18 and five assists with Shavar Reynolds Jr and Quincy McKnight splitting time after some early struggles with Marquette’s high screens for Howard, but they did an even better job in the second half allowing just 8 points and an assist, which I wasn’t sure was feasible after the first 20 minutes. Highlighted by forcing him to commit several second half turnovers and a Mike Nzei block on the perimeter in the closing minutes, Seton Hall taught Creighton a lesson on how to defend Howard.

For long stretches, this game was a battle of turnovers. Seton Hall caught the bug in the first half with 12, most of which were sloppy including stepping out of bounds at least three times, but it was Marquette who started to whiz the ball out of bounds all over the place in the second half, although early defensive pressure from Seton Hall set the tone and provoked 20 Golden Eagles turnovers.

How about Quincy McKnight’s turnaround in the second half on offense? After committing five turnovers in the first half, McKnight once against showed his bounce-back mentality, going on to score three times and dish a nice assist before the under-12 media timeout in the second half and before he would give the Pirates a 50-49 lead, their first since 14-13 — the go-ahead bucket was fitting. McKnight’s strong second half was also a theme for the team, which coughed the rock up just five times after the break. In the end, McKnight had a big opportunity for another go-ahead bucket with the Hall trailing 67-65 and 7 seconds left, but it looked like he was fouled on the perimeter after Myles Powell dished to him.

Speaking of that possession, it was a bit of a head-scratcher that Seton Hall didn’t attempt to get Powell a good look before he passed to McKnight. Everyone in the arena figured Powell would heave one up or at least drive in that situation, but nothing much was run and McKnight was forced to take a tough shot, more on this below from Kevin Willard.

The Cardiac Kids almost struck again. The double-digit half time deficit plus comeback rally has become a strong theme and it’s led to a ton of one possession games and heart-threatening drama. Like DePaul, today wasn’t to be and it left me wondering if Seton Hall could have been just a tad less sloppy in the first half, what the second would have looked like. It’s come to a point where it’s a slippery slope of how much you trust the team to rally due to past success, and how much you focus on plugging early-game leaks.

Five Quotes from Kevin Willard on AM970

Willard on his thoughts and what he told the team in the locker room at end of game: “That’s between us and the team. Pop (Dave Popkin), if you have any questions, I’ll answer questions. My thoughts are irrelevant.”

On how Marquette built their first half lead: “I thought their defense early on was really good. Sacar (Anim) did a really good job on Myles (Powell), being physical with him, chasing him. We had some opportunities, but we had some careless turnovers in the first half that really hurt us.”

On how they came back: “We didn’t turn it over quite as much. We only had five turnovers (in the second half). And I thought we really did a good job to limiting their easy, open shots.”

On McKnight’s bounce-back second half: “He played the way I expected him to play. Tough assignment going up one of the better guards in the country and I thought he did a phenomenal job.”

On the turning point late on in the game: “We had some chances. We had the ball, we’ve got to learn how to drive the basketball at the end of the game. We were a little hesitant because obviously we weren’t going to go to the free throw line, but toward the end of the game you’ve got to learn to drive the basketball.”

Willard’s thoughts on the team’s ability to fight back: “I’m proud of the way we played, I loved the way we played. I have no qualms. You’re going to lose some games in this league, especially on the road. Fought all the way back, took the lead, they made some really good plays. We had a couple chances at the rim but we had a hard time finishing at the rim. Obviously Markus (Howard) is really good, but when Sacar Anim is making threes on you you’re in for a long night … Really, really liked the fact that we were aggressive going to the rim … We’ve just got to do a little better job finishing.”