HOG WILD: Seton Hall stunned by Arkansas in 77-71 collapse

Joey Khan/Photography and Digital Editor
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Greenville, S.C. — The unraveling was already in progress, but a hard foul turned flagrant one with under a minute to play put the icing on a bitter cake as Seton Hall fell 77-71 to Arkansas in a gut-wrencher.

At the end of the day, the stakes weren’t as high, but the loss will rank up there with Michigan and Western Kentucky in the archives of tough pills to swallow for the Hall.

“We shouldn’t have been in that situation, to be honest with you,” said Kevin Willard of the tough calls his team was handed down the stretch.

“We should never have put ourselves in that situation. We had a chance, if we just take care of the ball with 1:20 left. You don’t want to leave it to other people. We had the chance.”

And that just about sums it up.

Last season, the Hall was buried early by Gonzaga after Isaiah Whitehead started off on the wrong foot, but their first tournament win in over a decade was ripe for the taking today.

“I feel like we had the game, when we were up eight or so,” lamented Khadeen Carrington, who scored 22 but made a pair of key mistakes down the stretch.

“Last year, the game wasn’t close at all. I feel like we had the game.”

To Arkansas’ credit, they were as feisty a team as Seton Hall was during the season.

The Pirates took a lead once in the first half but a 6-0 Arkansas run put the brakes on that.

Coming out of the half tied, Seton Hall then scored five straight to take their second lead which again was answered by a 9-2 Razorback run.

Looking to harness some third-time’s-a-charm St. Patrick’s Day luck, the third time Seton Hall took a lead midway through the second half, it appeared they had wrangled a hard-fought game for good.

But Seton Hall’s first NCAA tournament since 2004 just wasn’t to be.

Let’s not confuse luck with intent, however: Seton Hall very much shot themselves in the foot.

Leading 68-62 with 6:47 to play, Angel Delgado’s fourth foul on Dusty Hannahs — a 90-percent free-throw shooter — kicked off the unraveling.

The Hall would turn the ball over four times down the stretch — and 15 times on the day — which inexcusably surpassed the three points they scored over the same span.

“I think the free-throw line really hurt us a little bit,” said Willard of his team’s missed chances.

“We had our opportunities. We missed a couple [free throws]. We missed an offensive rebound. We missed a tip-in. We missed a little bank shot. We had our opportunities.”

While that laundry list of errors is undoubtedly the root of the Hall’s downfall, it was a two-hand touch tackle plus an incidental trip from Desi Rodriguez on Arkansas’ Jaylen Barford with 18 seconds left which was flipped to a flagrant one after monitor review that left the nation talking.

“I was surprised he pushed me like that,” recalled Barford. “But I don’t know if he was trying to make a play on the ball or what, but it came in our favor.

“I thought it was no play on the ball. As simple as that,” claimed a bold Mike Anderson.

“No play on the ball, he pushed the guy down. You saw it, I saw it.”

With the whole nation — particularly Pirate fans — up in arms, Kevin Willard’s fielding of a barrage of questions regarding the call couldn’t have been classier.

“I just watched it. You know, I thought the three guys tonight did a really good job. It was a physical, athletic game. I think it’s one of those things you’ve got to, if you’ve been around the game long enough you’ve got to know time, score, you’ve got to know what’s going on,” said Willard, directing that last part at the officials and not Rodriguez.

“It’s an NCAA Tournament game. I think you really gotta understand what’s going on. But they reffed a good game all night. So I can’t really complain about whether I agree or not. I’m always going to disagree with it. That’s what coaches do.”

While the rough call is what will be remembered, it’s really the collapse which set up the officials’ decision that is at fault

It leaves a nasty taste, something similar but entirely different than what transpired a year ago in Denver.

“Knowing that we didn’t get that call, it’s sad,” said Desi Rodriguez, who was front and center.

“For our season to end that way — I wouldn’t blame it on just that last call, I’d blame it on the way we handled the ball down the stretch. We didn’t take care of the ball, we didn’t get stops. We should have never got to the point of the travel or the call.”

Featured photo is courtesy of Joey Khan/The Setonian 

  • Andrew Herbst

    This loss really hurts. We were in control, but our warts of poor free throwing shooting and turnovers came back to haunt us. Let’s hope we can learn from this and get a PG next year whether it’s Duvall or a JUCO.

  • PadrePirate

    Yup. It’s going to take a few days for me to digest this one, while I route for the other BE teams to advance. But, overall, this turned out to be a better season than I thought we’d have. The guys really turned it around at the end of BE play. I thought we hit the top of our game vs. Butler and Nova and would advance to round 2, but we just didn’t execute the last 5 min.

    The questionable call should not overshadow the fact that we just simply lost the game, fair and square. A bitter end to an overall good season, in my book. Big questions as to next year…

  • Ardy

    This stage is to big for some people and you cannot make them what they are not. This looked like the the end of the Nova game and others.KC playing hero ball and the hall losing.Hall needs a leader not a personal stat stuffer.How many times does he have to apologize to KW for coach to get the message. I wrote when KC said coach I got you instead of WE got you that it smelled trouble. IW took matters in his hands but he made good decisions and shots! The hall may have gotten the best that they are going to get from this KC.They need to start building the next group. 4 and 5 star players are watching these teams and trying to make a decision on the Hall. KW is going to have to make some decisions real soon.

  • Ardy

    BIG PROPS to the FRESHMAN MP. Good building material!!!

    • Would have liked to have MP taking those shots and not Desi. That’s on the players, as well as the coach.

      • Ardy

        Good point. I agree.

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  • hallstorm

    That was more painful than the Villanova loss. This team really wilts. It’s too bad because I felt like the presence and coaching was there. They were prepped. I needed about 5 hours of no basketball watching to let this one go. Just the same old story as the loss earlier to Stanford, Marquette, Providence and St. John’s: lackadaisical free throw shooting, careless ball handling (Angel was one of the worst offenders) and an inability to deliver in the clutch. I feel bad for saying this, but I’m looking forward to M. Jones graduating and I hope we get a college-ready point guard so that we can use Desi off the bench. His selfishness and immaturity is just not ok anymore. He doesn’t pass the ball EVER, he misses defensive assignments constantly and he struggles to hit free throws. I’d love to see Powell, Cale, Carrington and a solid point guard on the floor next year and have Desi earn his time off the bench. The kid just mopes when things don’t go his way.

    • Rich Ricci

      Before being so quick to judge Madison Jones in such a negative light, let’s remember he was essentially being asked to replace both Isaiah Whitehead and Derrick Gordon, the two most steadying influences and primary leaders from the 2015 – 2016 team with very little time to acclimate himself to the other players, which in itself was a Herculean task that practically doomed him to failure right from the start. For whatever reason, he seemed to be under a microscope from the moment he arrived here and every shortcoming or mistake was unfairly magnified and, although his teammates were called out for their own errors, they were, for the most part, quickly given a pass for even worse transgressions, even the ones made in key moments of the game. Looking at his contributions objectively, it can be argued that without him, Seton Hall wouldn’t have even made the NCAA Tournament this year and, had everyone else played within themselves to the same level of their ability in yesterday’s game as he did, Seton Hall would have beaten Arkansas comfortably and we’d all be discussing our chances versus North Carolina tomorrow evening.

      I’m thinking (hoping?) that once we take a step back and give our emotions a chance to settle own, Jones’ tenure at The Hall will be viewed more favorably and his contributions to the 2016 – 2017 season will be appreciated, and rightfully so.

      • hallstorm

        Rich,

        I really appreciate your point of view. I do–there’s not an ounce of sarcasm in that. I’ve been–if not the most ardent, then one of the top 5–supporters of this team as a whole this entire season. I’ve been more than happy to discuss and trumpet the positive strengths and I’ve called out the glaring weaknesses.

        I don’t think I’m asking Madison Jones to fill the Isaiah Whitehead vacancy. Nor am I even asking him to fulfill the DG place (I think Powell had a great learning experience this season and replaced Gordon’s tenacious defense with his offensive capability–maybe not to the depth of the intangibles, but more than we suspected this season).

        I am, however, asking him to not make mistakes and just “hold the fort”. I realize the situation KW was put in with IW’s last minute decision, so in no way do I blame him (and I never have all season long. I’ve actually written about this issue in a positive light a couple of times earlier this season). I pretty much watch the team wire-to-wire for the most part and Jones has 1). Dribbled off his own leg more than 5 times that I can think of. 2). Failed to rotate back on defense to cover for the fast break on a miss 3). Had been–like the rest of the team sans Powell–a terrible free throw shooter.

        I’m not even asking him to penetrate and set up his teammates. I’m not asking him to shoot.

        But I am asking for the basketball “IQ” that should come to a senior that’s becoming of a division I basketball player in another major conference (actually, the top conference).

        In my short 43 years of life, Seton Hall has almost always had–when they’re successful and winning– a general who was integral to the team.

        I am not lamenting. I’m not even really complaining. I’m just saying exactly what he was. He was ok. He learned how to penetrate some and developed a very rarely used pull-up jumper. He was below average.

        The loss isn’t his fault–the team as whole let it get away. And I’m not even mad at Jones–he gave us what he had, which was below average point guard work. These last two losses, to me, got me upset because the team let them get away. Desi–beyond all else–aggravates me because he sulks when things don’t go his way and he is too emotional. He rarely passes and I just look forward to a point guard in the future that can run the team and distribute the ball to everyone as needed.

        • LBP

          I may have been one of the biggest critics of Madison Jones this year but I never felt he was not giving his all– in fact just the opposite. I was hopeful that J.Thomas would be the starter with MJ the back-up ( how did that work out??). MJones did the best he could ; caused no problems; and was a fine representative of my University. I thank him for being a part of a Team that I liked very much.

          • JoDubbs

            All of the above are good points on MJ. I was critical of him all year. But he played hard, he seemed to be a good kid and he was the guy on our roster. He was a stopgap at PG. But my concern was the reliance on him by Coach W. I agree he should have been the starter, and Jevon Thomas was never an option as a big east player but why was MJ playing 35 min a game. He should have been playing 15-25 min depending on he flow of the game. There seemed to be a real reluctance to have Carrington as the PG. Whenever there was pressure in the backcourt KC had the ball in his hands anyway. There were too many times MJ would cross over half court pick up his dribble and pass to Carrington, run to the corner and be out of the play. Defenders wouldn’t come out to play him and would collapse on the block. I love Ish’s tenacity but when those 2 are in the game, it was basically 3 on 5 in the offensive set.
            I am also shocked at our defensive lapses this year. I find it shocking the Isaiah was the driver of our awesome defense last year. I know Gordon was a bigger piece than I probably realized but we just didn’t have the same motor this year. I remember joking around last year about our ‘active hands’. This year we just didn’t see it. Ish’s injury definitely hurt but getting your hands up shouldn’t need to come from the bench. But when it’s not happening it must come the coaches.
            Obviously this was just a disappointing way to end the year. Hopefully Angel realizes he needs one more year to develop his explosiveness and inside presence. And we can get that last year out of him. And hopefully Trevon Duvall sees that he is the missing piece to get these very good 4 year seniors continued Big East success and their first NCAA tourney win and maybe more.

          • DougFlynn

            I think a decent argument could be made that the contribution of Madison Jones this year and Gordon last year were similar. Obviously this year, there was no Whitehead. But, looking at the two years, the difference between them is that Angel missed a bunny to tie up the Nova game at MSG – on a great pass from Jones, by the way. The NCAAs unfortunately had the same ending Gordon or Jones. Now, this class is seniors – we need a point guard badly. And some improvement in shooting free throws.

        • Rich Ricci

          I completely understand what your saying, but your three points,

          1). Dribbled off his own leg more than 5 times that I can think of. 2). Failed to rotate back on defense to cover for the fast break on a miss.
          3). Had been–like the rest of the team sans Powell–a terrible free throw shooter”)

          pretty much sum up the reason for my post, Hallstorm. All I’m saying is, the ENTIRE team is guilty of these mistakes, yet Jones is the one singled out time and time again as the lone culprit or repeat offender. In fact, I specifically commented about this in another thread a couple of months ago, siting the team’s “clumsiness”, using examples of falling during drives to the hoop, losing the ball while dribbling and not catching passes cleanly in the post, all of which lead to missed baskets or turnovers.

          As for “Basketball IQ”, I would say that’s not a strong point of this team as a whole, but that could be indicative of not having anyone with a true point guard mentality more than their age or being a senior because that’s something that comes naturally to some people and allows them to become a leader, so either they have it or they don’t.

          • hallstorm

            Well, we are where we are now and it is what it is. It doesn’t really matter now anyhow, but I will pose the one, last salient (and egregious to me, at least) point:

            Do you think the team felt they all needed to “run the point” this year because they didn’t truly have one? I feel that since we never had a true point guard who could dictate the offense and lead it left everyone to their own devices.

            I think you need to understand what my point is: I’m not “blaming” the ultimate outcome on Jones. He gave us what he had, kept a level head and quietly tried to fit into the team chemistry and conducted himself with class. I’m just saying (and I said above that I don’t relish in it nor do I say “good riddance”) that a true point guard is desperately needed for this team after this season. Madison Jones was below average. He seemed like a nice guy and left his ego at the door and tried his best to fit into the team (and didn’t leave like Thomas or transfer like Singh), but in order to get a win in the tournament and close out these close games, we need more from the our point guard.

            I’d love for you to find me a team with another below average point guard and tell me what their success has been so far this year.

          • Rich Ricci

            I couldn’t agree more that point guard is the single most important position in basketball right now but, unfortunately, that’s been The Hall’s biggest weakness, which is ironic in that it’s been our greatest strength (James Major, Gerald Greene, Jordan Theodore, Bryan Caver, Oliver Taylor, Eugene Harvey, Andre Barrett, Shaheen Holloway, etc.) over the years. Seton Hall’s problem has been forcing guys that aren’t natural point guards to play the position out of necessity and that rarely ever works. For example, even last year when Isaiah Whitehead made the switch, he was one of the few guys to be able to pull it off because of his extraordinarily high basketball IQ and athletic ability, but the team would have been much better off if we had a natural point guard so he could have concentrated on scoring, which was his strength,

            Madison Jones doesn’t have Whitehead’s basketball instincts or athletic ability but, despite not being a true point guard, he was clearly our most reliable ball handler, and our season could have been a disaster without him, as evidenced by the late game turnovers and mistakes we’ve seen with other people handling the ball.

          • Very good point, @rarrich14:disqus . I felt that Madison didn’t make any mistakes that the rest of the team wasn’t.

            Given the fact that Madison had not played in a season and a half and was asked to blend in with a pretty… interesting junior class that isn’t easy to gel with, I thought he did a fine job and Seton Hall would have been nowhere close to the NCAA tournament if not for him.

            Ish missed bunnies and also made careless errors that led to fast breaks.

            Angel is a great passer because he takes chances, and those chances led to plenty of errors, especially down the stretch of season.

            Khadeen — just see the last minute of games for quite a few games this season.

            Desi — Way too liberal shooting.

            Etc.

  • marco

    rodriguez took way too many shots… nzei and sanogo should have played more… powell needed more looks in the 2nd half… jones was good… Carrington was fine except for really late in the game, although I don’t know if that was a travel… Delgado was okay… the big man for Arkansas undoubtedly had a great game… I didn’t know he had that kind of range… just a tough, tough loss

    • Concise summary. Powell should have been taking those shots, not Desi.

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