The Seton Hall men’s basketball team was manhandled by the Creighton Bluejays, 82-67, on Saturday afternoon.
It was ugly.
After hanging around for the first half, the Pirates allowed Creighton to rip off a 17-5 run to start the second. It was never close from there, though never-say-die senior Derrick Gordon kept fans clinging to hope with a few fast-break layups. He finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
“I hate to lose,” Gordon said after the game.
Aside from the UMass transfer, energy and effort were scarce from Seton Hall. Isaiah Whitehead was called for three fouls in the first half, and then sat on the bench for the game’s final 13 minutes. Angel Delgado picked up a technical for getting too physical, so he too rode the pine. Desi Rodriguez, who has emerged as one of the team’s big guns, took a seat from the 15-minute mark on, as well.
After the buzzer, head coach Kevin Willard said that his team was tired after losing to Villanova, 72-63, on Wednesday. He also said Delgado is battling the flu.
“They weren’t benched,” Willard said of Whitehead, Delgado and Rodriguez. “Sometimes guys just don’t have it. Simple as that. There was no benching—nothing like that.”
Whitehead, who had 10 points, two assists and two turnovers, said Willard didn’t explain the lack of playing time.
“Not at all. I don’t know why, but I just have to respect coach’s decision. I believe in whatever he thinks was right, so that’s all that is.”
To Willard’s point about fatigue, Whitehead disagreed.
“I mean, that’s just him giving us excuses. We really took a step forward this year saying that if we win, we win as a team. Today, we just didn’t have it at all.”
All game long, 5-foot-10-inch point guard Maurice Watson Jr. gave SHU fits. What the junior lacks in size he makes up for in speed, quickness and court vision. He dissected the Blue and White for 13 points and 14 dimes.
As a team, Seton Hall had eight assists.
“Maurice Watson is pretty good,” Bluejays coach Greg McDermott said with a smile. “He sees things. His decision-making is pretty incredible. He made a lot of the right decisions tonight.”
McDermott also commended his point guard, who transferred to Creighton from Boston, for the defensive job he did on the 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound Whitehead.
Down in the paint was a similar story.
Big man Geoffrey Groselle entered Saturday’s contest leading the nation in field-goal percentage. It was easy to see why. He shot 7-of-8 from the field, with his lone miss coming off a wild lefty hook shot in garbage time. The 7-footer finished with a game-high 20 points in 21 minutes of action.
Delgado had no answer for Groselle inside, as Watson continuously drove the middle, attracted defenders and dished to his layup machine.
Now Seton Hall faces a difficult three-game stretch that includes Providence on the road, Villanova at home and Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio. All three teams are ranked in the Top 25. The gauntlet begins on Jan. 16, which gives the Hall an entire week to catch its breath.
After being the only starter to see much time down the stretch, sophomore Khadeen Carrington wants to make sure there isn’t a repeat of last year’s collapse.
“I told the guys ‘I know what it feels like to lose (six) in a row,’” Carrington said, referring to last season when the Pirates dropped 12 of their final 15 games. “I told the younger guys, ‘You don’t want to go through that.’ We just have to turn it around. We can’t be the same as last year—we can’t let games snowball on us.”
Gordon was not present last year, but he is taking it upon himself to avoid a sequel this season.
“I’ve heard what happened last year. I have to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. “We have to make sure that we stay together and can’t start pointing fingers.”
The veteran guard added that he called a players-only meeting to be held when the team got back to campus.
Like Whitehead, Gordon dismissed the idea that fatigue played a role in the team’s flat performance.
“Personally, I was ready to go. We have to learn how to bounce back from losses. Me being a veteran, I have to make sure that we stay together and nobody puts their heads down.”
Seton Hall made 15 of its 28 free throws. The turnover total (14) nearly doubled the assists (eight). Fans were heckling all afternoon, clearly fearful of yet another strong start that turns into a disaster.
All around, it was a bad loss, dropping SHU to 2-2 in conference play and 12-4 on the year.
But Willard still has faith.
“We’ve played bad before, and we’ve bounced back,” he said. “This group will bounce back. I have no doubt about that. We just didn’t play well today. They did.”
Tom Duffy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TJDHoops.