Newark, N.J. — Sound the alarm bells. With the state of New Jersey under a state of emergency despite minimal snow projected over night, it was Seton Hall who achieved emergency status after an alarming 97-93 loss to DePaul at Prudential Center, their third straight.
Come morning, Seton Hall will have a lot of shoveling to do to dig themselves out of this hole with a potential 3-5 start to Big East play looming after a tough test at Villanova next weekend.
Seton Hall (12-7, 3-4) was out-rebounded by DePaul from the opening tip and Kevin Willard opting to start Darnell Brodie instead of Mike Nzei looks to have backfired after he pulled off a similar move and started injured Romaro Gill at Maryland.
“I knew going in, Femi (Olujobi) has been putting a hurting on everybody and I was trying to save Sandro as many minutes as possible,” said Kevin Willard of why he started Brodie.
“I think it started off well, but it really didn’t end all that great.”
While the Hall was shooting it at a nice clip from the floor and limited their turnovers to 11, it was second chance points and a massive disadvantage on the glass that ultimately did them in.
“Obviously in the second half, DePaul dominated the inside game, but I thought we had some breakdowns in the first half that really hurt us,” diagnosed Willard.
“We just couldn’t get a stop or a rebound in the second half. We let them get in the lane a little too much whether it’s dribble penetration or coming off screens. When we have to step up and help, it gets you out of rebounding positioning.”
Sandro Mamukelashvili (12 pts, 10 rebounds) was the only Pirate to register more than two rebounds in a collectively poor showing. Seton Hall’s other forwards — Mike Nzei, Darnell Brodie, and Taurean Thompson — teamed for just one rebound.
It just never came together for that group as a whole.
“Coach came in the locker room after and was just looking at the stats (and said) ‘Nobody rebounded today but Sandro, that’s on everybody else but Sandro tonight, Sandro worked his butt off battling with their big guys,’” said Quincy McKnight, who had an efficient 25 points and nine assists.
“Nobody else boarded up tonight and that was our downfall.”
“Coach told us as soon as the game ended that it was unacceptable that Sandro was the only one to get ten rebounds and that no one else got more than two rebounds,” concurred Myles Powell, who scored 24.
“We can’t rely on just Sandro to get rebounds. We have to go back and watch film and learn as a team.”
On top of Willard playing his opening hand wrong by starting Brodie, foul trouble compounded Seton Hall’s interior troubles in a liberally officiated game.
“The foul trouble really hurt, especially not having Mike (Nzei) late in the second half,” said Willard after Nzei picked up his fourth just minutes after the half.
“We are looking forward to getting Ro’ (Romaro Gill) back I think next Sunday. Their effort is great, but their execution over the last three games has been less than stellar.”
Despite some positive vital signs on the offensive side of the ball, Seton Hall would ultimately allow their most points in a home game since a 102-91 loss to Notre Dame in 2006.
“We need to use this week to get back to being solid again. We’ve gotten into some bad habits without practicing: We’re gambling too much, reaching too much,” said Willard of the defensive struggles.
“It’s definitely frustrating. That’s been our big thing all year, we’ve let our defense dictated our offense,” added McKnight, who takes pride in his defense.
“We’re playing a little too aggressive in our help defense and it’s leaving guys open on the baseline and the three point line. Our defense has been good all season and the last couple games we’ve been lacking defense, I think our offense has dictated our defense a little bit.
“That’s really the struggle for us right now, one or the other always dictates the other, and that’s our downfall to a point. We’ve got to get to the point where they are balanced evenly and once we do that we’re going to get right back to where we were at earlier in the season.”
Getting the mojo back that was present a mere two weeks ago becomes a more urgent task by the game.
McKnight then told me that getting the little things done would be a barometer of knowing the team has righted the ship, has their swagger back.
Those little things?
“Defensive rebounding. We took care of the ball much better tonight than we have the last four games that we lost and I think that’s what we have to get down to.
“At practice we’ve been turning it over a little bit too. And honestly we haven’t been rebounding the ball in practice either without big Ro’ it’s been taking a toll on us. Big Ro’, he started to play so well, blocking shots getting rebounds for us, he changed our defense so much and once he went down it was a slight slip off for us on defense.
“We just have to stay focused and at the end of the day we know what we have to do to win and we have to get back to that.”
It doesn’t sound like there will be any notable Derrick Gordon-esque circle the wagons player meetings since the team has planned weekly meetings, but the buck starts with team captains Mike Nzei and Myles Powell.
“Mike and Myles have been through this before,” said Willard of turning things around.
“We’re only 7 games into conference play. It’s not like we’re 17. There’s still a lot of time. We have to recharge emotionally, we’ve been playing emotionally at a higher level and I think this week (off) will do that.”
“I know Coach is going to take all the blame, but it has nothing to do with Coach. Coach is putting us in the right positions, we just need to play a little bit harder and figure it out,” said Powell.
“I’m not worried, Coach isn’t worried, I know we’re going to do better. We always do.
“We’ve just got to find it upon ourselves, like I keep saying, it’s having the will to win. We could have won this game tonight. A few rebounds, a few loose balls you’ve got to come up with. We’ve got to figure it out, we’re not going to lose faith.”
How will Myles know if the team is over this loss?
“How hard we come back (on Monday). We’ll probably have a day off tomorrow with the snow and stuff, but to see how the guys come back Monday and see their passion.
“I know me and Mike are going to bring it as captains. That’s what we’ve got to do.”