No. 15 Marquette uses strong second half to defeat Hall
A strong first-half effort from the Seton Hall men’s basketball team went unnoticed Tuesday night after the team dropped its fifth straight game, falling to the No. 15 Marquette Golden Eagles, 66-59.
The Pirates (15-7, 4-6) led 30-26 at the half, but were unable to quell a Marquette comeback, allowing the Golden Eagles (19-4, 8-2) to explode for 40 points in the second half.
Seton Hall was led by senior forward Herb Pope, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, also adding three steals.
Senior guard Jordan Theodore finished with just seven points and seven assists. Theodore’s performance marks the first time he has not scored at least 10 points in a game since Dec. 2 against Auburn.
Head coach Kevin Willard shook up his starting lineup for the second straight time this season, inserting three new faces: freshmen Freddie Wilson and Haralds Karlis, and sophomore Aaron Geramipoor.
The three newcomers combined to shoot 5-of-11 from the field. Wilson finished with seven points and three assists, while Geramipoor had four points and six rebounds.
Sophomore Fuquan Edwin, who did not start for the first time all season, shot 5-of-12 from the field for 13 points. He also had five rebounds and four assists.
According to Willard, the team’s defense has nothing to do with its recent string of losses.
“We really suck offensively right now,” he said. “We are lacking a lot of confidence right now and that is making us a step slower.”
With a team full of freshman, Willard thinks there is a bit of an identity crisis in the crucial moments of the game.
“Everyone is afraid to be the guy to make the play,” Willard said. “That’s the trouble we are in, especially when you are always bringing in freshmen (off the bench).”
The Pirates held Marquette to just 26 points in the first half. However, in the second half, the Golden Eagles took over.
Senior forward Jae Crowder, who recently overtook Fuquan Edwin as the Big East’s leader in steals per game, finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, both game highs.
The team’s leading scorer, senior Darius Johnson-Odom, shot just 4-of-12 from the field for 14 points, but he contributed seven assists and five rebounds.
Sophomore guard Vander Blue was a major spark for the Golden Eagles, filling the stat sheet with 16 points (7-of-10), eight rebounds, a steal, a block, and an assist.
Marquette head coach Buzz Williams was without one of his top scorers in the game, sophomore forward Davante Gardner, who sprained his left knee in a victory over Villanova on Saturday.
Even without Gardner, who shoots 57.7 percent from the field on the season, the Golden Eagles shot 47.8 percent (11-of-23) in the second half.
The real story of Tuesday night’s second half, however, was free throw shooting, something coach Willard said has hurt his team this season.
“I’m kind of getting a little tired of that,” Willard said after the game, talking about the discrepancy in fouls. “We play a 2-3 zone. It’s not like we’re playing man-to-man.”
On Tuesday, the Pirates took just six free throws, making four of them.
Marquette, however, went 20-of-28 from the free throw line. The 20 points Marquette scored off free throws contributed half of their total points in the second half.
Two weeks ago, Villanova took 41 free throws in a game where Seton Hall only took 16, a difference that had Willard upset.
Willard, once again, voiced his displeasure over the situation.
“A couple of our guys don’t get the respect they should from the refs,” Willard said.
Despite Willard’s displeasure, the Pirates have the exact same number of free throws attempted as their opponents do on the season (406).
The Pirates only shoot 64.5 percent from the line this season, while their opponents shoot 72.2 percent.
John Lopiano can be reached at email@example.com.