College basketball is a 40-minute game.
From the initial tip to the final buzzer, every play matters when deciding the outcome. Lately, it seems as if the Seton Hall men’s basketball team hasn’t gotten the memo.
It all began during the matchup with Rutgers on Dec. 23. The Hall’s lackluster shooting in the first half resulted in a nine-point deficit at halftime to a defensive-minded but inferior Scarlet Knights team. It took a valiant effort by the Pirates in the second half, raising their shooting percentage by nearly 30 percent from the first half, to mount the comeback and defeat Rutgers by 11 points.
The Pirates have already completed their season series against Marquette, but neither game was pretty. Though the Pirates took the first game of the season series at home in a game that featured a thrilling finish, they played sloppy basketball all afternoon and were outplayed by the Golden Eagles. Marquette’s shooting ability got them out to a 10-point lead in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Pirates began to right the ship after that, owning an eight-point lead in the second half before an 18-8 Marquette run seemed to put the Pirates away. The Hall was able to come together in the final minute, however, and pull off the miracle 69-66 win.
These slow starts can be attributed to other recent games, especially their last two contests against Providence and Villanova. These are the two losses that have Pirates fans shaking their heads.
What set these two opponents apart were their pedigrees. The Providence Friars are a team that was picked in the preseason to finish ninth in the conference after losing star players Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil to the NBA draft. Then you have Villanova, the reigning National Champions, three-time defending Big East regular season champions and current the No. 1 team in the country.
Against the Friars, the Pirates came out flat, falling behind by 16 points late in the first half. It took yet another comeback attempt in the final minutes to try and escape with a win, but it was not to be as Providence took down the Pirates, 65-61.
Two days later, after coach Kevin Willard laid into his team for an “embarrassing” performance, the Pirates took to the floor against No. 1 Villanova to try and get back on track. Instead, they did just the opposite.
An ugly overall performance highlighted by yet another slow start resulted in a 76-46 defeat. The Wildcats broke it open early with a 21-2 run to take an 18-point lead on the Pirates. Villanova never looked back, and the second half magic that appeared for the Pirates in recent games never materialized. Villanova began the second half on a 17-3 run and at one point held a 36-point lead. Overall, even against the top team in the country, it was a very concerning performance that began with a very poor start.
As the Pirates return home, they must learn to play a full 40 minutes. Eliminating slow starts must be the name of the game if the Pirates wish to be competitive in Big East play.
Matt Ambrose is a journalism major from Exeter, NH. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mambrose97.