Deflections, second-chance points, drawn fouls and dunks made up many moments that ignited a sold-out Prudential Center crowd and a hungry Seton Hall team. But those moments dwindled as the second half progressed, allowing No. 11 Xavier to take over for a 73-64 victory against No. 19 Seton Hall on Saturday afternoon.
Seton Hall went as far as its defense allowed it to. In the first half, the Pirates held Xavier to 37.9 percent shooting on 30 points. J.P. Macura was the Musketeers’ highest scorer at the half with nine points, but he made all the difference in the second half as he went off for 27 total.
A diving Macura chasing for a loose ball summed up how Xavier eventually overtook and shut down Seton Hall with its physicality. While the student section often booed the senior throughout the afternoon, the noise turned into fuel for Macura to give his team chances at its first victory in Seton Hall territory.
“It’s disappointing any time you get a home loss in this conference just because it’s really hard to win on the road,” coach Kevin Willard said. “You have to give Macura credit, I thought J.P. really did some things down the last four minutes that just swung the whole game. I thought he played phenomenal.”
While the Pirates led by as many as 10 points after a hot start out of halftime, they ended up being out-scored 43-29 in the second half on 37.9 percent shooting. The nine-point cushion that Xavier won by was the team’s largest lead over SHU at any point.
Cold stretches were common for the Pirates, but their defense against Xavier made up for the lack of scoring. The Pirates did not score a single basket on two separate stretches in the first half, one that lasted four minutes and the other three and a half. Once the defense went away and Seton Hall still could not score, Xavier made its move.
The Musketeers used the three-point line to catch up to Seton Hall, making five threes in the second half to the Pirates’ one. Seton Hall finished the game with 4-of-20 shooting from distance, with Khadeen Carrington missing his seven attempts.
“It’s not a slump. I’m not going to call it that,” Carrington said. “I just have to get back in the gym and get reps back up. I’m alright.”
Small plays made big differences in Seton Hall’s successes and failures. Ismael Sanogo, who was inserted in the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 16, was a master of them in the first half. He used his length to get his team second chances, even scoring eight points himself, but being forced to sit with four minutes left due to foul trouble hurt Seton Hall’s comeback attempts.
“Ish going out I thought hurt us a lot,” Willard said. “I thought Ish going out the time he did really kind of took our energy out. Mike [Nzei] did a good job, but Ish is playing with so much energy and so much defensive presence. We stopped getting out on the break because he was not out there.”
Desi Rodriguez led the Pirates with 19 points and Delgado added eight points and 18 rebounds while playing all but one minute of the game, but smaller mistakes amounted to 21 points for Xavier off Seton Hall’s 18 turnovers.
Now entering a bye week, Seton Hall has its longest stretch of rest time that it will see until the end of the season. In that time before facing DePaul on Jan. 28, Sanogo has an idea of what his team needs to work on.
“It’s our mental toughness, finishing plays off at the end,” Sanogo said. “We’ll be fine.”
Willard still expressed confidence in his team after seeing it go 0-2 over the past week.
“Every team goes through a rough stretch and we’re going through a bit of a rough stretch,” Willard said. “Every team I’ve seen hits a little bit of a tough stretch. You’re going to hit a tough stretch, especially in this conference. I have total confidence of where we are, I like where we are. We have to get back to doing some little things.”
Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @eswint22.