Amanda Boyer/Photography Editor
The Seton Hall men’s basketball team lost a heartbreaker at home to Marquette on Saturday, 57-54.
The Pirates have lost five of their last seven and see their record fall to 5-6 in conference play.
Even without top-scorer Matt Carlino (concussion), the Golden Eagles outslugged the Pirates for the vast majority of the afternoon. Seton Hall would come clawing back and made a valiant run in the game’s final minutes.
In the end, though, it wasn’t enough.
With four minutes left, Marquette led 51-38. As boo’s rained down from all angles of the well-stocked Prudential Center following a pair of terrible turnovers, something clicked. The rejuvenated-Pirates fought harder and played better than they had all game.
Those boo’s turned to emphatic cheers in the blink of an eye as Sterling Gibbs barreled down the lane for a cold-blooded and-one with around 120 seconds to go, cutting the lead to three. On the next possession, a Brandon Mobley layup sliced the deficit to a single point.
Marquette knocked down some key free throws to push the lead to three, and Seton Hall got a few clean looks from distance as time expired.
Too little, too late.
“The problem was we waited until the end to play like that,” sophomore guard Jaren Sina said. “If we play with that kind of aggression and intensity from the start, we’re going to win the game. Even though we had a chance to win, you can’t wait until the last two minutes and 50 seconds to do it.”
Gibbs, who led all scorers with 16 points, missed a game-tying three at the buzzer after a pair of misses from Sina. The junior has played with ice in his veins since he arrived in South Orange—he’s Seton Hall’s go-to guy whenever the game is on the line.
“I’m really happy with the look,” Gibbs said. “It was a good look. I’ve made them before. I shot it with confidence, and it just didn’t go in.”
Gibbs entered the game as the third-leading scorer in the Big East, but was held to just three points (and three fouls) in the first half.
“They played great defense,” Gibbs said. “We struggled having a rhythm on offense, and that really ended up hurting us…We ended up digging ourselves into a whole.”
Freshman-star Isaiah Whitehead, in his third game back from a foot injury that sidelined him for a month, was held in check for a season-low three points on 1-of-11 shooting.
“I think everyone has to patient with Isaiah,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “He’s got a little rust on his game, but I still think he’s doing a lot of good things out there. It’s really his first time going up against the [Big East]. Understanding different rotations now, different size. I think everyone has to give him a couple games to get his flow back.”
Within the game’s first five minutes, four different Golden Eagles had entered the scoring column. The visitors got the stripe for 17 first half free throw attempts but, fortunately for Seton Hall, only managed to convert nine of them.
Marquette repeatedly punished the Pirates on the inside. Led by Luke Fischer and Steve Taylor Jr., the Eagles outscored Seton Hall 42-22 in the paint.
“We’re not built to be a grind-it-out, half-court offense,” Willard said. “Their size hurt us, but we have to do a better job of containing penetration and our post defense has to get better.”
Seton Hall’s lone lead of the day came after a Gibbs three-pointer one minute into a sluggish first half, which saw the team score just 22 points. The blue and white only led for 24 seconds of the entire game.
Sina was the Hall’s few sources of life throughout the day. The sophomore, who finished with 12 points, connected on a four of his seven three-point attempts and continuously kept the Pirates from falling out of reach.
“My shot felt good,” Sina said. “I was trying to be more aggressive today. I know my percentages haven’t been high as of late, but I’m a shooter and I was able to get myself going.”
Marquette had lost six straight Big East games entering Saturday’s contest. This loss now puts Seton Hall under .500 in conference play with a daunting home matchup against 24th-ranked Georgetown looming on Tuesday.
“We’ve kind of dug a hole for ourselves,” Sina said. “We’re in a tough spot. But at this point, we just have to win these games out. Every game now is huge.”
Just a few weeks after being recognized as one of the nation’s top-25 teams, Seton Hall’s NCAA Tournament hopes are now on life support.
“I got a lot confidence in this team,” Willard said. “I got a lot of confidence that they’ll bounce back. We’ve been down—we just have to find our way again.”
The Pirates will look to bounce back on Tuesday when they host No. 24 Georgetown on Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Rock.