Kevin Willard says defense was “terrible”, offers thoughts on 84-79 exhibition win

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Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard offers his post-game thoughts on the Pirates’ narrow 84-79 win over D-III Baruch College on Saturday afternoon in Walsh Gym.

When I asked Willard if Baruch was just hitting their shots of if his team played poor defense: “It wasn’t good defense at all, it was actually terrible. That we can fix so I’m not worried about defense.”

On Isaiah Whitehead’s (40 pts, 3 asts) scoring but lack of true point guard play: “I thought he played great. All my point guards score, Jordan [Theodore] scored and was our leading scorer, Sterling [Gibbs] was our leading scorer, Isaiah will be our leading scorer.”

Is Willard concerned about his team’s lack of perimeter threats (6-16 today): “Veer [Singh] was going to start until he got hurt, so that kind of threw out the rotations a little bit, it’s a little bit of an issue but if we can get him back it won’t be.”

On if Whitehead took the game into his own hands due to teammates not scoring: “Isaiah is an aggressive player, I want him to be aggressive. He came out and kind of kept us in the game in the first half and made some big plays in the second half. The offense is predicated on him having the ball and making plays and I thought he did a good job.”

Not having a true center out there for most of the game kind of messed up what we could run, that kind of hurt us a little bit. When you’re not used to playing against that size, that can hurt you a little bit.”

Why freshman Myles Carter didn’t see the court: “Their tallest guy was 6-3. It’s hard to go in, they’re used to playing certain ways, they’re used to doing certain things – that’s why Mike [Nzei] and Ish [Sanogo] played most of the game, those are our next two smallest guys and they’re both 6-8. I was hoping Myles would get in there and I was hoping Braeden [Anderson] would get more minutes, but you just can’t play big if they’re that small.”

When I asked if Willard was concerned with the outcome: “Nope. I’m glad with the result, I’m glad it was the game it was. I’m glad we were in a close game. Mike [Nzei] hasn’t played, that’s the first time Ish has played major minutes, I thought he played terrific. We just have to get the rest of the guys back in the original lineup.”

Overall concerns: “Defense. Again it’s a tough team to play against. We don’t switch pick and rolls, we don’t play those [sized] lineups. But I’d say my biggest thing is defense. I knew we were going to turn the ball over early, I thought we’d struggle shooting – we always do the first game – but we also didn’t press in the beginning of the game, maybe we should have. I really wanted to try and play good solid defense, which we didn’t.”

When I asked about the relative success in second half due to full court + on-ball pressure: “That’s what we were going to do the whole game. Once Veer went out, that kind of shortened our rotation a little bit. And I didn’t want to start off pressing, I wanted to see how we were gonna play (in the half court) and when I saw they were that small I figured we were going to be in a little trouble because we had to switch a lot of stuff. We’re too big to switch, Angel [Delgado] isn’t going to guard a little guy. I think that’s something we’re going to have to work on because we didn’t do a good job at it.”

On Veer Singh’s wrist injury. Veer didn’t play today and had a light brace on his right wrist: “He got hurt Thursday in practice. He had an X-ray on Friday, it was negative for a break but it hasn’t stopped swelling so that means there has to be something else going on. We’ll get the MRI Monday, we’ll know by Monday.”