For most teams, halftime is used as a cool down period and a chance to make slight game plan changes to succeed in the second half.
On Tuesday night for the Seton Hall Pirates, halftime was used as a wakeup call after holding on to a two-point lead over NJIT in the opening half.
“We went over our film and watched what they were doing on us on defense, and reminded these guys what’s at stake every time you go out there,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “I thought they came with much better focus in the second half.”
After starting the game on an 8-0 run, where senior Herb Pope hit a 3-pointer and a dunk in the opening minute of the game, the Pirates’ defensive effort slowed and allowed the Highlanders to control the tempo of the opening half.
“We didn’t defend the 3-point line,” senior Jordan Theodore said. “We had a 8-0 run to start the game, but when you don’t defend the 3-point line, when you give up threes like we did in the first half, people are going to stay in games. We gave them confidence.”
Despite shooting just 3-11 from 3-point range in the opening half, NJIT had a three-point lead with 8:45 remaining in the half.
“If anything, I thought they outplayed us in the first half,” Willard said. “I thought our interior defense was extremely poor for us.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Pirates had their best shooting half of the season, shooting 58.3 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range.
During the break, Pope thought Willard’s message was clear.
“‘You better win,'” Pope said of Willard’s halftime talk. “‘You better go out there and let our defense dictate our offense. Go out there and play the fundamentals.”
Willard said in the first half that the upperclassmen “weren’t playing the way they should be.”
“I don’t think it’s our young guys who are messing us up,” he said. “My two seniors are smart and have been through this before and kind of understand there’s two halves of basketball.”
After Willard’s talk, the team turned it around.
In the second half, the Pirates exploded for a 29-2 scoring run where Pope scored eight points and sophomore Patrik Auda accounted for seven.
“We got the message,” Theodore said. “We practice a certain way and coach wants us to play that way. In the first half, we didn’t play our brand of basketball. In the second half, we did.”
The Hall’s defense held NJIT to just 16 points on 16 percent shooting in the second half, while forcing 11 turnovers.
The Pirates capitalized by scoring 19 points off turnovers and 20 points in the paint.
“If we could do that in the first half, I felt we could have had the best defensive outing of the year,” Pope said. “That’s what we have to do for 40 minutes instead of 20.”
Pope led the scoring effort for the seventh straight game, finishing with 25 points.
Three other Pirates ended the game in double figures.
Seton Hall returns to the floor on Saturday night when they host Wake Forest. Tip-off is at 8 p.m.
Tim LeCras can be reached at email@example.com.