Seton Hall failed to up the ante and make a strong case for a two-seed in their loss to Creighton, but there’s a lot to talk about from Myles Powell’s bad night at the office to Shavar Reynolds Jr’s expanded role.
This was a major ‘what-if’ game for Sandro Mamukelashvili (13p, 6r). When he was on the court, he was great. But he could only last fifteen minutes. I figured Kevin Willard would go small and he did put Sandro at the five coming out of the first half under-12, but he picked up his second foul exactly a minute later. Willard did go back to ‘small’ looks with Jared Rhoden at the four with Romaro Gill out there, but any extended plans of Sandro were foiled by fouls, his second and fifth being very questionable.
If you could pick just one play out to dissect, it has to be Denzel Mahoney’s three to go up 78-74 with 1:07 left. Seton Hall had plenty of time left and their ensuing possession seemed a bit lacking, but Mahoney’s wide-open look from a baseline out of bounds play was the dagger. It seemed like Myles Powell and Romaro Gill got confused leaving Powell to close late, but Mahoney plays the ‘four’ for Creighton, so I’m not sure either of them were meant to be tracking him. Shavar Reynolds, Quincy McKnight, and Myles Cale were also on the floor, leaving the most natural defender as Cale, but that’s half guesswork.
Speaking of Cale, his fast start was encouraging, but then he disappeared. It was a warming moment when the crowd sprung to their feet after his monster slam from a perimeter drive and gave him an ovation. The applause peaked three times: first for the play, second for the replay, then there was an organic third wave, which I took as encouragement, recognizing his recent struggles. After scoring his only seven points over the first seven minutes in emphatic fashion, Cale went to the bench for usual substitution patterns, despite his apparent boost in confidence. He wouldn’t score again.
This could potentially be a strong take on Myles Powell, but here it goes. Kevin Willard needs to accept that over the last 2-3 weeks, Powell is not playing anywhere near the “best player in college basketball” that has continually been put at the feet of the Trenton native. And that’s okay. Willard needs to help assist Myles in being more poised and pragmatic in his play based on different scenarios. Part of being a star player and lead guard is having the ‘go-go-go’ mentality, which Powell has, but elite players can wear multiple hats.
Yes, Myles has certainly been capable of playing decoy in the corner and only taking a couple shots in a half — the ability is there — and yes, he had some wide-open looks on Wednesday night. But we’ve also seen — and Powell has self-diagnosed — ill-advised attempts, on both sides of halves. It also bears repeating that Powell is 27/108 (25%) from three since returning from his concussion and just 31-percent for the season, a 5.3% dip from last season. That’s very average, although context and defensive schemes are hidden ink on a box score.
I just think this Atlas outlook of Powell with the team on his back and the expectation of him being a Trae Young demigod needs to be shaken up and re-focused. From a stats perspective, quite frankly Markus Howard is way ahead of Powell for Big East Player of the Year. And again, that’s okay.
It seems like Shavar Reynolds Jr. is really seeing an expanded role. Shavar has played 20+ minutes in the last three games, the first time that has happened in his career and has tallied 15 points and seven assists over his last two, a lot of them being timely plays. The obvious indirect victim of the former walk-on’s success is Anthony Nelson, who actually dished two assists in his brief three-minute first half cameo tonight; Nelson has played a total of six minutes over the last three games. Reynolds clearly brings superior defense to the fold, but if he can continue to hit clutch threes and dish nifty assists like the one he side-armed to McKnight for an open three, then that’s a massive asset off the bench, almost like a Derrick Gordon role. When a 1B-type unit of McKnight-Reynolds-Rhoden/Cale-Sandro-Gill is on the floor, it’s sneaky effective.
Five Quotes (and one)
Quincy McKnight on this being a let-down, and if it takes away from Villanova win: “No. That was a great win. It hadn’t been done in awhile here. It was just one of those things where we’ve got a couple guys out sick this week and we didn’t have a lot of bodies in practice and we just didn’t get the right amount of reps that we should have gotten in, just things like that. Things happen, it’s flu season, we’ve just got to bounce back.”
McKnight on what it was like defending Creighton, and what went wrong: “It’s tough. When you’ve got four guys running around that can make a three-ball and they’re running a motion offense, they’re getting the ball over the half court line after a make or after a miss, starting their offense at 27, 28 [seconds on shot clock] making us guard their whole possession. It’s tough. They’ve got guys that can knock the three-ball down at a high rate. … I thought there were a couple mistakes that we made defensively, a couple of mistakes they made defensively, but we didn’t capitalize. There were a couple opportunities that MP had, he had great shots that are usually bottom of the net and they’re taking the ball out of the rim. Tonight they were just short for him. It was nothing crazy, we just have to get back in the gym, get back to practicing.”
Romaro Gill on Myles Powell’s off night: “We’re all human, we all have bad days. We all have bad days in practice. Today was just one of those days, it was tough for him to connect.”
Kevin Willard on size mismatch and it affecting the center spot: “As much as I love Ro, the way they were spacing us out, it was just too hard. We were giving up too many easy buckets. He got off to a great start with (Kelvin) Jones in there, I thought he got a couple of good blocks, but once they went to kind of like a five-out offense, it was really hard to keep him out there. … We had no choice. Once (Christian) Bishop got his third foul, he [head coach Greg McDermott] went with [Denzel] Mahoney and [Damien] Jefferson. That’s a hard matchup for Ike and Ro, they just put so much pressure on you through pick-and-rolls. We tried to go small and switch some stuff, but we just didn’t do a very good job of keeping guys in front of us. I thought they did a good job of attacking, especially with Mahoney and Jefferson.”
Willard on Myles Powell and team’s shot selection: “He had an off night. It happens. As good of a player he is, if you watch NBA, you watch college, every once in a while a great player has an off night, and he just had an off night. … I thought we took too many threes, but again, they were small and switching, and they did a good job. … But we still scored 82 points, so at the end of the day, if you score 82, you should have a better shot of winning on your home floor.”
Willard on Sandro and his foul trouble: “The way he’s been playing, and obviously going small, he helps us tremendously running offense. I would have played Tyrese more, but Tyrese didn’t practice the last two days because he’s been battling the flu. So I was a little hesitant, and I probably — just because he hadn’t practiced in two days — I was a little hesitant putting him in there, then I started mixing and matching probably a little too much, which kind of got us off a little bit.”