X-factor Powell looking to break out of slump in second NCAA Tournament

For the Seton Hall men’s basketball team, this NCAA Tournament is centered around its four seniors. With so much pressure on the 2014 recruiting class to succeed in its final chance on the biggest stage, it can be easy to forget how important sophomore guard Myles Powell is to the Pirates.’

Averaging 15.6 points per game, Powell has become the Pirates’ second leading scorer behind Desi Rodriguez. To no surprise, he has also become the team’s best three-point shooter by a wide margin, hitting on 39 percent of his looks. While Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington have also shot well – making 38 and 34 percent of their threes, respectively, Powell has attempted 231 three pointers this season, which is at least 90 more than the two seniors.

Sarah Yenesel/Photography Editor

But recently Powell has been cold, shooting just 21 percent from the field over his last four games. If the Pirates stand any chance of advancing to the Round of 32 or Sweet 16, it is vital that Powell regains his shooting touch.

“Myles Powell needs to get back into the swing of things,” coach Kevin Willard said. “We really need him to play at the level he has all year.”

Powell is aware of his struggles, and is maintaining a level head. He knows how large a role he has in the team and is not allowing the misses from three to change his mindset.

“I came in today just trying to get back in my groove,” Powell said after practice on March 12. “I’ve been in a slump a little bit, but I just want to play my role and do whatever it takes to win.”

That role expanded when Rodriguez went down with an ankle injury on Feb. 21 at Providence. Without their leading scorer, the Pirates looked to Powell to take more shots down the stretch, which could have been a factor in his slump. Rodriguez returned in the team’s Big East quarterfinal – albeit in limited fashion – meaning Powell should somewhat settle back into the role he had played most of the season.

“We put a lot of pressure on him went Desi went down because we really needed him to step up, which he did to his credit,” Willard said. “Now with Desi back out there, he needs to get back into his natural flow.”

With fewer forced shots and a more defined role, Powell has no doubt he will step up his performance from the past three weeks.

“Since I’ve been here, my teammates never let me lack confidence, and every shot I take I think is going in,” Powell said. “That’s what my teammates tell me, that’s what my coach tells me, if I think I can make it, shoot it.”

Even if he is having a rough shooting day, Powell’s performance on both ends of the floor will be an important factor for the Pirates to find success. Powell is less worried about his shot and more worried about his overall performance on both ends.

In last year’s tournament game against Arkansas, Powell scored 10 points, hitting two of his five looks from deep. For what his role was last year, that game was relatively average, but he knows he is capable of more. He admits that what held him and the team back last year was the mindset. This year, Powell is staying relaxed, focusing on the game as if it were any other.

“I don’t really look at it as pressure,” Powell said. “The seniors pulled us all aside and told us not to feel like there was pressure; we came in the last two years with so much pressure, and it felt like we had the world on our backs. So, we’re just playing free, that’s all we’re going to do.

“We’re just going to play our game.”

Andrew Lombardo can be reached at andrew.lombardo@student.shu.edu on Twitter @lombardo_andrew.

Author: Andrew Lombardo

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