Seton Hall comeback falls short in scrappy affair with Saint Louis, 66-64

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NEWARK — Suffering from an anemic offense over the first 30 minutes, Seton Hall nearly mounted a 12-point second half comeback but fell just short in an ugly, physical 66-64 loss to Saint Louis.

Seton Hall forced 24 turnovers and sustained 27 fouls from Saint Louis which ultimately helped the Pirates mount their comeback, but were unable to get over a few critical humps.

Outside shooting looked impotent again, capped off by Sandro Mamukelashvili’s (11 pts, 7 rebs) missed game-winner at the buzzer, Seton Hall was out-muscled by Saint Louis’ forwards to the tune of 40-28 on the boards (it was much larger at times), and the team once again recorded an alarmingly low assist count (4).

But the agonizing should certainly not be about Seton Hall’s final possession, which came after a missed free throw that gave the hosts a chance to tie or win the game.

The Hall was rather listless for the opening 30 minutes of the game, mostly on the offensive side of the ball.

“One of our biggest issues on offense is we’re not making more than one or two passes right now,” explained Kevin Willard. “And guys are a little bit antsy to try and do something, and it’s causing us some trouble.”

Third and fourth passes were never found after quick shots were taken early into possessions, while Myles Powell (16 pts, 4-13 fg) was locked down by two Saint Louis defenders for essentially the entire game.

“He’s gotta get a little bit more used to — this is all new for him — he didn’t get face-guarded last year,” said Willard of the straitjacket Saint Louis applied to Powell.

“He didn’t get double-teamed off pick-and-rolls, and this is all a big learning process of him being aggressive from the start. He’s just not used to doing that right now, and the more he sees it, the more he’s going to get used to it and the more he’ll be able to recognize and understand what he’s got to do.”

Oddly enough, it seemed like the team fed off of the Biliken’s chippy play and then started to feed off of their defense and the 24 turnovers they created.

That was encapsulated by Powell trash talking with Carte’Are Gordon on the free throw line coming out of the under-12, after which he forced a backcourt turnover and scored, before diving on a loose ball on Saint Louis’ next trip up the court.

The crowd got into it and it turned into a game from that point onward.

But taking nearly 30 minutes to put all the pieces together in your Prudential Center home opener isn’t quite good enough.

And while Willard was pleased with the defensive effort, he didn’t feel the 16 points off of turnovers was enough tonight.

“I was really happy with the way we created turnovers, but we didn’t capitalize off those. There were too many turnovers where we just didn’t get a chance to kind of finish off those.

“Either we turned it off or we didn’t take a good enough shot, but that kind of shows me that they’re working, that they’re creating those turnovers. We’re not capitalizing off that, and that’s probably the next phase of getting better, capitalizing off good defense and off working hard.”