Seton Hall crashes out of NCAA tournament with 68-52 first round loss to Gonzaga

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DENVER – Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong as Seton Hall crashed out of the first round of the NCAA tournament in a 68-52 loss to Gonzaga late on Thursday night.

Seton Hall shot 32-percent from the field including a 4-of-24 shooting performance from Isaiah Whitehead (10p, 8a) that the leading scorer would label “my worst shooting performance [of the season].” For Gonzaga, center Domantas Sabonis (21p, 16r, 4a) was an absolute beast in the block from start to finish and clearly changed the game.

The contest began with a bang until the first media timeout, after which the pace slowed into a tempo that favored Gonzaga pretty much the rest of the way.

After a shaky start, Seton Hall’s defense picked it up by creating deflections, but their offense imploded and wasn’t able to capitalize as the Pirates failed to register a field goal over the final 8:40 of the first half; the Hall finished the game with just .72 points per possession, a season low.

“I thought we had a couple opportunities in the first half to kind of calm our nerves,” lamented Kevin Willard. “We missed a couple free throws. We missed a couple open looks. You just can’t do that against such a good basketball team.”

“We just wanted to win so bad, we sped the game up when we didn’t have to,” said Isaiah Whitehead of his team’s offensive struggles.

“We were just being too fast on offense and not patient like we usually are,” said Derrick Gordon, who played his final collegiate game.  “That’s my job, I should have stepped in and calmed everything down.”

Trailing by 10 at the half, Seton Hall finally got their attack into gear early in the second period but Gonzaga — whether it was Sabonis or a crafty Kyle Wiltjer (13p, 7r) kept answering time after time.

After trailing by 10-plus points for a long stretch, Seton Hall was able to cut their deficit to just six with 6:51 to play despite Sanogo leaving the game with a dislocated shoulder and shortly after a Kevin Willard technical that was a long-time coming.

In a game that was blatantly marred by officiating from the Seton Hall and even a neutral perspective, Willard picked up his second tech of the year after Derrick Gordon (10p, 4r) was clobbered on a drive to the basket midway through the second half.

“We had ‘em, but we got some tough calls,” said Whitehead of his team’s surge to get within six.

“Just throwing the ball in the post, blowing the whistle, [they] kept calling a foul. We came out here to play basketball and we got a tough whistle.”

Gonzaga answered the Hall’s push with an 8-0 run that coincided with 3:30 field goal drought from the Pirates which ultimately put the final nail in their coffin.

“It’s tough playing out here, but there’s no excuses,” said Whitehead. “When you make the tournament you’ve got to be ready to play wherever they put you. We tried our best and came up short.”

  • Louie Dee

    I don’t know what to say.

    I’m on the fence about Willard because there’s a ton of talent on this team. I don’t think he did a good job of getting these guys ready for this game. I feel like he did his homework for the last 10 games of the season. It kind of reminds me of Creighton game where we got blown out because of lack of preparation. As soon as I saw these guys bowling I was like WTF. I seen people get injured bowling, that didn’t make any sense to me. FYI I was on the track team on SHU and coach Moon would never do things like this before a huge meet. PJ would disconnect phones before the biggest game. We lost before the game even started. Think about it.
    It’s the worst game we’re played since Creighton. It’s just really sad.

    • Joe Schmoe

      Lou,

      I understand how u feel, but teams have bad nights. SHU was due for a bad night. The reality is that 52 teams are going home the first weekend. That’s 3/4 of the field.

    • Matty P

      Personally I didn’t mind the bowling because I feel this team plays best when they are loose and I think they idea of bowling was to take a break away from basketball as a team.

      I think this game was about frustration and guys not hitting open shots/hitting free throws more than lack of preparation. On the offensive end there were mental lapses (Nzei stepping inbounds before passing the ball in), shots taken early in the possession that they could have gotten at any point (both Whitehead and Carrington shot 3s with 20 secs left on the clock), Whitehead not becoming more of a facilitator considering he was having a bad shooting night or taking it to the rim which was his only opportunity to put the ball in the net, and a large number of missed free throws that could have kept the game tighter while we went into an offensive drought. On the defensive end while they gave some open shots they held Gonzaga 10 points under their season average by keeping pretty much everyone except Sabones under their season average and had Gonzaga turn the ball over 20 times which is well above their average.

      All in all it was a bad night to have an off shooting night and a lack of calls caused too much frustration for this young team to overcome.

    • shu_92

      I can’t take this Willard bashing seriously after their first BET title in 23 years.

    • Joe A

      Louie,
      You’ve got to be kidding. Someone getting hurt bowling? I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. I’ve been a league bowler for 37 years and I’ve never seen anyone get hurt. Willard was doing it to keep the team loose. That’s all there is to it.

      And can we stop blaming him every time we lose. Did he miss those 20 shots that Whitehead took? Bottom line is, that the players didn’t play well. They missed 13 out of 21 free throws, not Willard. It was their worst game at the absolutely worst possible time. They deserve the majority of the blame, not Willard.

    • ThePirateFan

      You’ve gotta be kidding.

  • Joe J

    5 takeaways from the debacle in Denver:
    1. The pundits and odds makers were right. Gonzaga is the better team.
    2. There was only 1 NBA ready player on the court last night: Sabonis
    3. The Denver Nuggets should never ever draft Whitehead in the future. Whitehead was gassed even before the tip in the thin air
    4. The entire team needs to learn how to make a free throw. PATHETIC.practice, practice, practice.
    5. The Good News: the entire team will be back (sans Gordon). Whitehead was so bad last night in the biggest game of the year. He needs at least another year to improve his game.

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