Notebook: Seton Hall crushed by No. 2 Villanova in anti-climatic 92-70 loss

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NEWARK — Seton Hall ran out of steam and was then steamrolled by No. 2 Villanova in front of a record crowd at Prudential Center that wanted a repeat of last year’s Big East Tournament final.

An 11-1 run into the halftime break that escalated into a 22-1 Wildcats stampede was about all she wrote as Seton Hall didn’t have the infinite juice required to overturn a 20-point deficit early in the second half against the defending national champions.

Jalen Brunson (22 pts, 10 asts) didn’t miss from the floor and was instrumental during the run while Seton Hall’s defense appeared to wilt under the intense pressure, culminating in an apparent benching of Desi Rodriguez at the under-12 media timeout in the second half. 

Unlike Seton Hall’s whipping at the Pavilion last month, it appeared they had the fight on the offensive end to try to mount a comeback in the second half but just couldn’t buckle down defensively with so much work to do.

All that and more below…

Five thoughts

Villanova’s 22-1 run was the story of the game, and it was orchestrated by Jalen Brunson. While early half court defense prevented Seton Hall from really building a substantial foothold, Villanova’s run that spanned on both sides of the half changed the game in a heartbeat and was obviously the story. Brunson scored or assisted on 21 of those 22 points, leaving Willard saying post-game that he “flipped a switch.”

Seton Hall’s defense was not up to the challenge today. Sure, Villanova made them look worse by hitting a barrage of shots that a lot of other teams probably wouldn’t have, but it seemed like a Wildcats shoot-a-round at times with how easy they were able to get an open look compared to the Hall. This culminating in what seemed like a benching of Desi Rodriguez after I saw him going back and forth with Willard heading into the under-12 following a missed defensive assignment; he did not see the court again.

It’s probably harsh to point at not enough touches for Angel Delgado today. He had 11 points and six boards at the half after being dominant at times, but the Hall had to work so hard just to get him solid looks within the paint. They also turned the ball over two or three times (in the first half) trying to do so whether it was an errant pass or one that Delgado lost out of bounds himself. Jay Wright said post-game that he is the best rebounder in the country and that his team did well to shut Delgado down considering they were without Darryl Reynolds.

The Pirates’ offense was largely solid, but they were missing an extra punch from their second-tier guys. Myles Powell (8 pts, 3-11 fg) was 1-for-9 from deep and had a few high percentage looks early on while Desi Rodriguez (8 pts) wasn’t at his best offensively and registered just one rebound. Elsewhere, Seton Hall didn’t get anything at the four-spot: Mike Nzei and Ish Sanogo combined for 2 points and 2 boards in 36 minutes, though Madison Jones (11 pts, 4 asts, 4 rebs) played well and turned it over just once.

The atmosphere was great… for 18 minutes. The upper bowl sidelines were packed, albeit with mostly Villanova fans, and the endzones were about 70-percent full while the lower bowl was crammed with about 90-percent Seton Hall blue. The Rock was absolutely rocking for large stretches of the first half including the Hall’s early 9-3 surge as well as the back-to-back threes that preceded Villanova’s crippling run. Noise reached levels I had not witnessed before in Newark.

Five quotes (and a couple bonuses)

Kevin Willard on Villanova shooting well vs. bad defense: “I thought it was a combination of both, I thought we were in good position and then the last three minutes of the first half I thought Jalen Brunson flipped a switch … It took momentum out of our sails and then [Eric] Paschall comes out and bangs a three to start the half. They’re a really good basketball team.”

After speaking about Myles Powell’s off-game, Willard said: “For some reason we’re having a hard time going Wednesday to Saturday, that’s two Wednesday-Saturdays that we’ve struggled for some reason. I need to do a better job with these guys. It just seems like we don’t have the same energy [on Saturday] that we have on Wednesday.”

Willard when I asked him about back-and-forth with Desi: “No, no that was the most calm conversation I’ve ever had with Desi. Des has played phenomenal for us all year, he’s played a ton of minutes, sometimes when he gets a little shot you’ve just got to sit him down. Trust me, that’s one of the most polite conversations I’ve had with Desi over the years.”

Willard was then asked about if he was happy with the defense: “They missed like four shots all game. Obviously I’m not happy with our defense, but they had a lot to do with it. We were in pretty good shape and then Jalen Brunson turned it on, which he has the ability to do. Like I said, I have to do a better job with these guys from Wednesday to Saturday. I’m not doing a good enough job with these guys to bounce back and get them ready. That’s two Saturdays in a row where we haven’t played very well defensively.” 

Khadeen Carrington on his team’s defensive effort versus Villanova shooting well: “It’s a combination of both. There were times when we played really good defense and they hit really tough shots, and there were times when guys just got open shots, so it was a combination of both.”

On the atmosphere:

Willard – “It was great, our students were phenomenal, they’ve been phenomenal all year. But I wish we gave them a little bit more to cheer about.”

Jay Wright – “Awesome man, I said that to Kevin when we shook hands at the beginning. When we drove up, we were a little late just getting into the building because there was so many people out front and the bus couldn’t get through, because of traffic. We could just sense the environment, and when we walked out, it was a great college basketball environment. I think one of the unique environments in the country, a pro arena and a college crowd — it was really cool.”

Angel Delgado – “It was great. I know Villanova bring like 8,000 people, but it was great. It was a tough game, we just didn’t win today. We played pretty good defense, they just didn’t miss no shots. They were shooting threes and making them. There was nothing we could do in my opinion.”

  • shufaninva

    Maybe they were tired lol

    • More on that for the Xavier preview. I wont get home at 3am today and have Monday off, so you will see a preview unlike Nova! Lost all of Thursday — went to sleep right after work. OK, you may say I’m starting to sound like Willard…

  • shufaninva

    Well, flight home is delayed too, I guess I should rant a little.
    Did nova even miss a shot in the second half?? Good Lord. The nova fans were quite awful in my section, but Philly fans will be Philly fans.
    It seems that we can only win when kg or dr get red hot from outside. You could tell it was going to be a long day when the threes weren’t dropping early.
    Nova has a real in game coach, and a a staff that can develop players.
    Gotta be envious of that.

  • LBP

    Well that was a wood -shed whooping without ever getting near the wood-shed.
    I can not blame M.Jones today ( even tho I wish I could). Nova is just that much better and we have lousy match-up problems where no-one, and I mean no-one ,could control Brunson. He got the ball to where he wanted it -when he wanted to.
    Nova played great Team D and worked very hard-beating the Hall consistently down floor. Nova , despite being smaller, was intent on giving up no bunnies . First Game where SHU did not evidence a physical presence.
    Ish; Desi; and Powelll had their individual worst Games of the year and Nez should probably be included.

    • PadrePirate

      Right. We should have had the edge physically. There were a few possessions with Angel backing down Painter at will. Their biggest guy is 6’7″ and yet we couldn’t take advantage. I guess we didn’t get many quality looks in the paint, because they were daring us to shoot from the arc like last game, and like last game, we went ice cold.

      • LBP

        PadrePirate- I love him but Ish refused to shoot wide open 5 footers and Nez too. In the first half , Nova gave good looks for outside shots but Hall could not take advantage and Nova was committed to crashing the Boards.
        I have been proud all year of reading that opposing Coaches note that the Hall was more physical and wanted the ball more-today that was not uttered by Wright and it should not have been.

        • FA

          Very simple outplayed out hustled and out coached must win wed. or put a fork in us we are done.

    • Fishjam

      Good points LBP. Ish, Desi, Powell & Nzei all had poor games and that’s too much to overcome vs a well-oiled machine like Nova.

      I was proud of how we came out and played strong for the first 18 minutes. We stayed right with them even though we were missing a lot of open shots. I felt we outplayed them those first 18 minutes and if we shot decent we’d have a 5-6 point lead.

      Brunson just went off the last 2 minutes and I think that shell-shocked us and we kind of packed it in mentally. After playing hard and with energy we ultimately went in to halftime with a 11 point deficit that just sucked the wind out of us.

      We all hate when Willard complains about the schedule but this team definitely has an issue with quick tunrarounds (wed PM to Sat AM). I’m not sure why it is but our guys just can’t seem to muster the mental and physical endurance to play a full 40 minutes. This was very similar to the St Johns game last week where we started off OK then totally wilted.

      Ish probably shouldn’t have played. He could not keep up on defense and several times Nova just dribbled right around him when he tried to step up on help defense. That was a huge factor. I also felt when DiVincenzo blocked his dunk attempt late in the 1st half leading to a Brunson 3 was a pivotal play and he also threw the ball right to a Nova defender twice in the 1st half.

      Desi was in la-la land out there on defense, Jones and Carrington couldn’t do anything to slow down Brunson, Jenkins schooled Powell and Angel was also terrible on D. He gave up wide open 3s to Pachsal and got beat down the court a couple of times in transition.

      Our defensive effort was really, really bad. It was bad last Saturday vs St Johns and it wasn’t great vs Creighton on Wednesday. Ish being injured is definitely a large factor but these guys have to find their 2nd wind to salvage the season over these last 4 games.

      • LBP

        Fishjam -I usually enjoy agreeing with you but I am a bit depressed I have to do it follwoing the Mildcat Game.
        I held out hope that Team D would be tuff-guess expected too much from Ish.
        Team did play hard in the first half but seemed to just get worn down and what Brunson did at the end of the half and to start the 2nd half was too much to handle. I agree that Ish being blocked on the dunk seemed to be the “straw.”
        I am pleased we have the Wed. early start and I will be there and I hope great fans turnout.Frankly, I believe we should win all 4 Games and strangely fear GTown more than all others.

  • Joe J

    A lost opportunity today but the goal is still attainable. Win the next 3 games and they should be ok and get in. They should be favored to win the next 3 games as well so no more excuses. Anything less and they’ll be in the NIT. Can’t expect this team to win 2 games in 2 days in the big east tourney as they have no depth and amazingly have shown little stamina. Never seen a team of 20ish year old athletes get as tired as this group. 20 going on 50 after 2 days rest for most of them after listening to Willard’s excuses. Depaul is next Saturday after a Wednesday night game so that may be the game that ends their season

  • PadrePirate

    Picture above says it all. Guys we completely deflated by that final 1H run. What I don’t get is why the coaching staff seems to have made NO adjustments. Ok, they close out the half on a run, but you’ve got 20 min to recollect, refresh, switch up defensive sets, identify a few offensive priorities, etc. What does KW do during half-time?

    I didn’t expect to win this game, but I did expect a fight. I don’t like seeing our guys roll over and die like that. We beat this team twice last year. This year not even close. Why?

    • LBP

      We know why PadrePirate. This Team has no Leader. Altho I was not the biggest Fan of Whitehead’s Game, I was a Huge Fan of his Leadership qualities. He really led the Team -and not always in scoring. He took control when necessary and was the hidden asset ( together with Gordon) in leading the D.

      • PadrePirate

        Well, if we don’t land a stud like Duvall next year (long shot), it looks like that leadership vacuum will continue, unless some mature grad transfer (like Gordon) flies in out of nowhere to fill that role.

        In November, I really thought this team was KC’s to lead, that role was his for the taking, but in the end none of our juniors filled the shoes left by IW and DG.

  • GoPirates34

    To be completely honest with you, I did not think SHU had a chance to beat Nova. They have the best player in the country and are just too tough on the perimeter. I did however, expect a close game where Nova pulls away in the final minutes to win by 7-8. I understand all Pirates fan being angry with the effort and how they blew a chance to make a statement in front of a big crowd. I also understand Pirate fans being angry with underperforming this season and not meeting expectations. I am optimistic however that we will fight back and beat X, G Town, DePaul and lose to Butler. This would put us in great shape and leave us in the 8/9 seed line. They need to come together as a team, pass the ball more on offense, and lock in defensively for one final Push. I could be wrong but I have stuck with this team all season and hope they have it in them. Go Pirates and HZF

  • SHU95

    Teams with a little depth have no problem playing Wed- Sat. Nova is a better team, we have to play near perfect to beat them or hope u catch them on a rare off-night. If the team falls a little short this season, I’ll look back at a few of those opportunists they let slip. At the end of day, IW & DG were replaced by Jones & Thomas. I know Jones is trying & he would be fine in a reserve roll 10-12 min a game. The team lacks the dynamic leader & playmaker to compliment the talent that they do have. I really hope they are able to make a run here, but also fill in some of the holes for next year so these guys can have a great senior season.

  • Coach Mike

    Simple…Nova is one of the best teams in the country – SHU is not. Nova did everything right today. Was just sad to see it wasn’t just a little bit closer…Nova did shoot 67% from the field…no stopping them today. Keep your chins up.

  • Andrew Herbst

    Rough game today, but I didn’t expect to win. Nova showed today why they are one of the best teams in the country. They’re almost impossible to beat if they shoot the way they did today. That being said, we can still control our own destiny. We can definitely go 3-1 down the stretch. It’s very much in reach. Let’s use today as a learning experience and keep our chins up. I think we’ll come back refocused on Wednesday and beat Xavier. GO PIRATES

    • Fishjam

      Very true Andrew. I really didn’t expect a win here either. Our path to the NCAAs is clear and it starts with Xavier. HAVE to win 3 of the final 4 and its doable. Xavier is down 12 at the Half vs Marquette right now without Blueitt. He’s questionable for our game Wednesday and they are clearly not the same team without him.

      • Andrew Herbst

        Definitely. Also, they’ve struggled without Davis as well. I was hoping Marquette would lose. I really hope we can catch them for 5th seed