Plenty of positives to draw on in Seton Hall’s 72-71 loss to No. 4 Villanova

Connect with

Seton Hall fell oh-so-short late on Wednesday night in front of 9,000-plus at Prudential Center, but there are plenty of positives to take from the Hall’s 72-71 loss to No. 4 Villanova despite a nail-biting barrage of missed chances over the closing minutes.

I thought it semi-foreshadowing when the engaged crowd was drawn to their feet four possessions in a row prior to the final media timeout as Seton Hall kept bringing the game within a bucket. But a Villanova squad with Daniel Ochefu glued to the pine with foul trouble just kept answering.

That’s what top-five teams do: get it done in the clutch.

“I thought defensively we didn’t switch on Arch, we gave up an offensive rebound on a missed free throw,” recalled Kevin Willard about his team’s defense down the stretch. “You’ve got to get stops, more than anything we have to focus on how to get stops toward the end of the game.”

While Seton Hall’s end-game defense could have done better — the Ryan Arcidiacono basket that Willard is referring to was an uncontested go-ahead lay-up with 30 ticks left — their offense also came up short over several possessions in the closing minutes.

Derrick Gordon was stuffed twice on the baseline just feet in front of me, the Hall turned it over on an inbounds play with 8 seconds left plus a timeout to spare, and Isaiah Whitehead took a couple tough, contested runners on the opposite side of the basket that fans have been pinpointed as costing the team the game; Isaiah finished with 21 points (6-18 fg) and 5 assists.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright and Willard both disagree with Hall fans.

While Wright commended his team’s defense on Whitehead late in the game, he admitted just how effective the sophomore point guard was throughout the other 35 minutes, especially in the second half.

“During the other portions of the game, we just had no answers for Whitehead,” said Wright. “He just killed us.”

“I thought he got a really nice rhythm off the middle pick-and-roll, he scored four straight times off it,” defended Willard when asked about Whitehead’s play down the stretch.

“There’s a time when you’ve got to shoot and there’s times when you’ve got to pass and that’s part of the learning process,” said Willard, indirectly referencing the immediate claim that Whitehead’s shot selection was poor.

“I think he’s done a phenomenal job of growing into the point guard role, considering he wasn’t even playing at this time last year because he was hurt. This is his first full [year] going through it and I think he’s done a phenomenal job.”

At first that seemed like another baseless defense of his players from Willard, but he obtusely admitted post-game that the end-game execution could have been better.

“I have a lot of confidence in Isaiah and Khadeen,” said Willard when asked if Isaiah took contested, hero-like shots late on.

“Although they’re sophomores, I’m going to let them make plays towards the end of the game, and they know that. They have tremendous confidence in themselves, which they should have,” said Willard of his two starting guards.

“We’ve just got to learn from those possessions [down the stretch], how to get a better one. I’m going to let them do what they do best and that’s play. I thought all of them played their hearts out, so I don’t think one guy did anything different than anybody else.”

Despite seeing some familiar less-than-stellar half court execution coming out of timeouts, Seton Hall certainly followed up their upset of Providence last weekend with a positive result.

With Angel Delgado effectively taking Ochefu (6 pts, 3 rebs) out of the game by drawing fouls after The Chief earned KenPom MVP honors in the last three games against him, Seton Hall smartly drove at will to the basket — outscoring Nova 32-22 in the paint — though they were ultimately shut down in the end as back-up forward Darryl Reynolds and other Wildcats chipped in defensively.

Jay Wright was genuinely astonished at how Seton Hall was able to keep getting in the lane — Wright said he’d have to check tape to see how they were able to do it — and gave a short, simple, and honest answer when asked if the Pirates are a tournament team.

“Hell yeah.”


  • WilponsStink

    Outstanding game, the Pirates played with a lot of intensity and execution, so I could not be happier with the effort. This team has showed us a lot in its two losing efforts against Nova. A couple of breaks here and there and they win the game, so no complaints from me.

    For instance, there was a quick jumpball at the end of the first half called when Sanogo grabbed the ball out of a Nova defender’s hands under the basket and put it back for a bucket. That bucket counts and it’s an OT game. Just saying, nothing to hang their heads about. Great game.

    Not being able to get the ball in at the end of the game, when Whitehead knocked it out of bounds with a defender draped over him, and the missed runner from 5 feet by Whitehead… This game was close. But I look forward to when they execute those plays and put these teams away. It is frustrating, no doubt, but they are close and getting better every game.

  • Ryan Kelly

    Great game to watch, wish we could got a bounce to go our way here or there.

    As far as the Whitehead shot at the end and leaving a timeout on the table, I dont have a problem with that. Nova had just missed 2 free thows the defense is in scramble made trying to get back and fin their man. I like the idea of trying to attack the basket early. Especially when we have already had trouble getting the ball in bounds on previous attempts, and calling the timeout allows Nova to get their D set.

    Big test is now how they respond against Xavier. They proved they can play with the best in conference. Lot of positives in this game, End game execution is the only thing to improve from yesterday.

    • LBP

      Nice post Ryan- This Team needs to learn to win-I just do not want excuses to stand in the way of progress-I want to see even a greater effort on Saturday-This is a “blue collar” Team despite its ” high school ” acclaim-if the Team works hard it will win

  • SHULaw05

    Proud of our team after their effort last night. DO NOT hang your heads. So many opportunities in the coming weeks, especially on Saturday! Our defense is allowing us to play with any team. Major credit to Sanogo, Gordon and the rest of our players on the defense/rebounding efforts. Just like last weekend at Providence, Saturday’s game against Xavier is a major opportunity to build our resume’. Play with the same intensity as our last two games and we will get the W. Pirate Pride. Go Hall!

  • iratepirate

    It was a good game to watch. We played hard, but there were still question marks when it comes to play-calling, player decision-making. So many missed opportunities because the team wasn’t settled when it matters. Yes that is youth, but you have to call a timeout at the end and settle your team and draw up a key play. It happened at least once with Villanova, even though they did everything possible to hand us the game. JW always draws up good plays in the timeout.

    There are no moral victories.

    There are still more chances for us to prove we belong in the field of 64.

    As it stands we are one step farther from a bid. I hope we can step one step closer after this Saturday.

    I will say this. You can talk about how proud you are, how great a game it was, how great the effort was. I hope that is enough to sustain you in March when we may be left again thinking about “next season” and “how great beating Providence was”. This Saturday awaits.

  • VinBick

    Nice posts guys, but we lost.

    • iratepirate

      Agreed. Have to do better.

  • Louie Dee

    The team played hard, great game.

    Do you guys get the sense that Willard is somewhat pessimistic. He was quoted complaining about the short time to play Xavier after the game. Man up! Everyone’s going through it. Move on from the loss and get ready for Saturday.

    We can’t dwell or we will not make the tournament. Stay positive! Use this game as a learning experience, and kick Xavier’s Ass!

    Let’s go Hall!

  • jfp1992

    Regardless or what happens @ Xavier, I’m actually more curious about how they will play in the following four games: St. John’s, @ Creighton, Marquette and G’Town. Will they play down to those opponents? Will they step up, beat who they should, get revenge on Creighton? Those four games, could decide their NCAA fate more than whatever happens @ Xavier.

  • Matty P

    Hopefully the team looks at the tape and learns from the mistakes and how rushed they appeared in the last couple possessions. Definitely a disappointing loss seeing how many opportunities they had and the miscommunication that led to such an easy basket.

    To look forward, as one person happened to do on Hall Line last night, it’s interesting to see the schedule after the game on Sat. After that game we’ll have played Nova twice, Xavier on the road, and Providence on the road. They’ve got 6 home games and 5 road games with home opportunities against Xavier, Providence, and Butler to get a couple quality wins. So one could argue the most difficult portion of the schedule is behind the team and they could have a good chance of winning a bunch of games to end the season strong.

    • LBP

      Unfortunately ( or maybe fortunately) the Hall will have to end strong or the year is for naught. Why I said “fortunately” is that this Team (and Coach) do not handle prosperity well. I can not rid my mind of the Creighton fiasco-hopefully the Nova Game will reinforce how hard this Team has to bring it every night.

  • Matty P

    One interesting stat that I saw from Jerry Carino was that there were 11 first half fouls vs 31 second half fouls. How could the officiating triple after the half? Did the refs get together at halftime and decide they weren’t calling enough fouls? I don’t think the fouls benefited one team more than the other, but I do think Nova started to drive the ball more often instead of take 3s bc of the way the game was officiated in the second half.

    • iratepirate

      More fouls in the second half is not weird. Players get tired and when you get tired you are more likely to lose focus and hack opposing players. You also get more tired and don’t move your feet on defense as much, substituting your arms and getting fouls.

  • fouline

    This is a down year across college ball. There are no dominate teams. Everybody is getting picked off. It’s a great opportunity for a mediocre team to get a card to dance. We just have to try harder than we did last night. Good game. But we’re borderline panicky in our play. Need more confidence guys.

    • iratepirate

      I think that panic is a function of our poor offensive system. The “hero ball” is either:

      1. Undisciplined players not listening to the coach
      2. An offensive system that has built in “hero ball”.

      I think it is the second. Our offense seems to rely on either a Pick & roll or weave at the top, and then a sort of “audible: what do I have in front of me” quick decision. There seem to be very few set plays for guaranteed lay ups or open mid-range shots. This is a failure of the coach to really have good offensive plans or a coach that provides them to him.

      Every isolation drive to the hoop should be the creation of a triple threat. Either you go for the layup if the big men sag, or you have an outlet pass to your big man, or a kick out to the corner. It seems like we don’t set up plays at the top of the key to facilitate that, and our guards are left to throw up a circus layup in isolation. There is no Theodore distributor on this team.

      Knowing you don’t have that distributor, the offense should have changed. More baseline cuts and “off-ball movement” to create opportunities for easy passes from your more “shoot first guards”. IW and KC are shoot first, so you have to compensate with good plays and big men in the middle to break a zone for Hi-Lo action.

      Of course this is all easier said than done, but either not having these plans in place, or not executing them are exposing this team for what it is: an easily defended team unless we get lucky at the 3 or can put the other team in fouls early.

      • fouline

        I think you’re describing what I’ve thought about for a long time… that we are more like an AAU team… we have perimeters more than plays. And we do have a tendency to play “hero ball”. But at this point in the season and in the reign of Willard the Pouter, this is it. The players run the team. They have basic plays. They have bball IQ. They have energy and street smarts and away-we-go. If Willard would have done half of what you’re talking about we would have been in the dance years ago. But he didn’t and well… But as I said in a down year something good can happen. I know it’s weak thinking but it still would be nice.

      • Fishjam

        Willard has said in the press that IW and Dino are at their best “just playing” and creating for themselves and others. They really don’t have much of an offensive set besides the weaves and the pick and roll. The only set plays they seem to run are in dead ball situations where they have run a lot of alley-oops to Desi running around picks backdoor.

        This team lives and dies on the guards playing street or AAU-stye basketball on offense and tough D. It works often because Zeke and Dino are so athletic and adept at creating their own shots. It was effective for most of the 2nd half BUT in the final 2 minutes they made bad decisions. All 2nd half they ate Nova up by penetrating into the paint to create opportunities but when it mattered most, they stopped doing it. IW was quoted as saying he could have looked to penetrate (on the long 3) but by the time he realized the shot clock it was too late. I’d like to watch it again but I could swear he took that shot with at least 15 seconds remaining on the shot clock.

        • iratepirate

          How often it works and whether it is an effective scheme I think is in question. “Just Playing” sounds like a good way to lose track of how much time is on the shot-clock, and could lead to too few options late in the shot-clock. What I’m trying to say is that what went wrong is a symptom of the problems that “Just Playing” creates. Clearly it didn’t work against Villanova twice, and it has failed as often as it has succeeded so fair in conference play.

          I understand that Willard thinks this is a good offense, and it has worked for most of their OOC against weaker opponents (more than half of our OOC is against 200+ teams). I think it is a long-term losing strategy for offense, and certainly past Willard teams haven’t been able to make the tourney playing his style. Not to say past teams didn’t have other problems, but the offense wasn’t exemplary.

          Set plays help you manage the shot-clock. Set plays help you know what options should be presenting themselves when. I feel watching this offense that after the initial weave or pick and roll we are standing at the top of the key unsure what to do next.

          • Fishjam

            I hear you Irate. I don’t necessarily agree with Willards system but it’s clear that there was no set plays late in that game. He leaves it up to his players. I’d like to see some more sets and structure at times but perhaps he has a point. This team’s strength is its athleticism and quickness. They are not very good passers and by in large they are not a good shooting team. They are also still mostly young and most didn’t play in structured offenses prior to college. To best utilize their strengths they have to be very aggressive and attack and perhaps the looseness off KWs strategy is the best thing for them.

            I would still prefer to see SOME offensive sets, especially against zones and I’ve said all year I like IW playing off the ball some to find him open jumpers (see the big corner 3 vs Nova). Going along with KWs strategy of letting Isaiah and Dino create on their own may be OK but then you have to better instill in them what a good shot is and to understand situations. Even if you are going to let them play without a set, at least give them some guidance like….”look to breakdown your man and drive to the paint” or “no contested 26 footers”. Whether you call a play or “let them play” this team is still too young and inexperienced to not give them some guidance at the end of games.

  • Fishjam

    Such a frustrating loss. Played very well but man does it sting because they had a golden opportunity to take them out. LBP said it earlier….this team does not handle posperity well. It seemed almost like a switch went off last night after IW hit the 3 to give them the lead. Before that they were playing aggressive, intense and for the most part smart. Once they got the lead they seemed to tighten up a bit like they felt the pressure.

    Isaiah played so well in the 2nd half on both sides of the ball. He looked really good after a bad shooting 1st half and brought them back. Team never would have been that close if he didn’t play great. But he showed he still has a long way to go with his play in the final minute. The long, contested 3 with 44 seconds left in a tie game is mind boggling. It was the same exact shot he took at end of regulation against Wichita. Why take that shot? There was still 20+ seconds on the shot clock and he had been killing them with his penetration the entire 2nd half. You are also in the Double Bonus….you MUST look to drive into the paint again because you have so many more high percentage things that can go your way:

    1) A foul while driving gives you 2 shots
    2) No one picks you up and you get a high percentage layup or pull up jumper
    3) You get fouled while doing the above and get 2 shots or chance for 3-pt play
    4) You get doubled or tripled and find an open teammate for layup or open shot

    A 26-foot 3 with a man in your face is not a good shot in any situation.

    Then after the misses by Ochefu he took another quick shot with 10 seconds left. This time he drove but he drove to the outside and picked up his dribble 19-20 feet from the basket leading to a tough off-balance running one-hand floater from the corner. If he drove to the middle he would have had options to pass to either side or down low but he once again created a tough situation when it wasn’t required.
    Then there was the inbound play….I don’t really blame that on him because Ocefu was all over him and Gordon didn’t make a great pass. But with a big man guarding him he should have found a way to create some seperation.

    The mix-up between IW and Khadeen drove me crazy too. That seemed to be on Carrington as they were switching all game. Gordon’s shot that got blocked wasn’t a great decision either. Desi made a bad pass that almost got picked off. The defender went for the steal leaving Gordon open so he took it to the basket. It’s just that the angle he took and by using his right hand, he gave both Nova big men easy openings to block the shot. If he used his body to shield and put it up with his left it would have been a much tougher shot to block and he may have gotten the foul call also. So really it was the whole team that kind of failed to execute at the end showing they still have a ways to go.

    • LBP

      Fishjam —
      i enjoy reading Ur posts ( maybe because I so often agree with you).
      The 3 point shot with 44 left was the play of the Game- Isiah wanted to be the hero and he just rushed. Yet, I have little problem with him trying to be a hero. Maybe-and hopefully, he learned- This Team is close to being very good-or-…………

      • Fishjam

        Thank you LBP. I agree….I have no problem with Zeke stepping up to take big shots but he has to better learn situational basketball and his own strengths & limitations.

        He & Dino have incredible confidence, which are strengths. You want your scorers to have no memory and the aggressiveness to keep shooting. However, they are not Steph Curry & Klay Thompson…. yet…..they don’t hit 45% from NBA range. They are both at their bests, getting in the paint and moving towards the hoop. When the game is on the line, go to your strength and dare the other team to beat you.

  • Fishjam

    Hopefully they don’t have Villanova hangover today like they had vs Creighton. I agree with Willard, this is a bad job of scheduling by the BE but life is tough in this conference. No one is feeling sorry for us. This team tends to play unfocused and sloppy when they are mentally fatigued, hopefully they can leave Nova behind and re-focus because they really need a W as they’ve now lost 3 of 4.

    They won’t sneak up on Xavier who are coming off a Home Loss to G’Town. Xavier is a tough, balanced, veteran team that is well-coached. They move the ball EXTREMLEY well on offense, play solid D and rebound as good as any team in the Big East. They play a lot with 3 and 4 guards on the court at the same time but their guards all have good size and are willing and able rebounders.

    They have 3 good 3-pt shooters in Bluiett, Davis & Sumner and 2 very solid 6’9-6’10 athletic big men who can pass, rebound and defend in Reynolds & Farr. Blueitt is their best player, kind of a guard/wing in the Josh Hart-mold who can do it all, shoot, pass, rebound, etc. Myles Davis, from Plainfield (like Gordon), is a tough combo guard who is their leader on the court. Edmond Sumner is probably their most talented player. He’s a lanky 6’6 freshman PG who is very smooth and athletic, kind of similar to Kris Dunn though obviously not as polished. He’s the one who got knocked out vs Nova and has only been back for a game or 2 but if he’s right, Xavier is a different team.

    • LBP

      Huge Game which involves more than a “win”. The character of this Team will be revealed. Hope they play hard from whistle to final whistle.

  • Louie Dee

    Can they please take Gordon out! He’s playing like crap. He’s obviously still emotionally hurt from the Villanova game.

  • LBP

    Well -that was not good- another regression. Just disappointing