Heading into the season, talk surrounding the men’s basketball team focused on who would step up on offense. In the early stages of the season, however, it is the Pirates’ defense that is lacking.
Holding a record of 4-2 after finishing sixth at the AdvoCare Invitational, SHU ranks 201st in the nation in points allowed per game with 72.8, as of Nov. 30. Last season, the Pirates finished 75th in the nation in points allowed per game with 67.8.
While Seton Hall has allowed more points per game this season than last year’s squad, the offensive production has gone up. Compared to scoring 74.2 points per game last season, the Pirates are scoring 80.3 points per game this season, which is good for 79th in the nation.
That statistic may come as a bit of a surprise to some, as Seton Hall lost its leading scorer, Isaiah Whitehead. Others have stepped up in his absence though, something head coach Kevin Willard said would have to happen at the beginning of the season. Whether it be SHU’s junior starters or freshman Myles Powell – who is averaging 13.2 points off the bench – the Pirates are getting the job done when it comes to scoring.
Having subpar performances on defense can be bandaged by strong offensive performances, which was the case for Seton Hall against Iowa. While allowing 83 points to Iowa, the Pirates were able to score 91, including 26 from Powell.
When Seton Hall does not have a player to step up on a poor offensive night, that’s where strong defense is able to give the team a chance at winning. That’s what happened against Stanford, though SHU lost 66-52.
“When our offensive isn’t going well, we get a little down. We have to fight. Certain guys get hard on themselves, it’s a work in progress,” Willard told Gary Cohen of AM 970. “We’re a little banged up and we’re not good enough to not be banged up against a good team.”
Seton Hall’s 52 point total against Stanford was its lowest for a game since the team’s showing against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament on March 17, where the Pirates also scored 52 points. Before that, Seton Hall did not have a point total that low since scoring 51 points against Butler on March 12, 2014.
Willard cited injuries as being a problem. Angel Delgado has had issues with his ankle and Ismael Sanogo’s shoulder and bicep have been a concern.
“That’s never a good thing at this time of year,” Willard told AM 970 of injuries following the loss to Stanford. “In January guys will have a much better feel than now. You play a good team and 100-percent you’re going to get exposed a bit.”
Both Seton Hall’s offense and defense has been exposed on occasion this season, but with the offense trending upward and the defense trending downward, that will be a point of focus for the Pirates to correct going forward.
Next, the Pirates return to action on Thursday, Dec. 1 against Columbia, a 3-3 team that is averaging 79.0 points per game. It will be a test to see if the Hall can amend its defense, and a look into whether the team can keep up its offensive impact.
Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @eswint22.