NEWARK – The Seton Hall men’s basketball team saw its three-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday night as it fell to Xavier by a final score of 70-69.
Seton Hall’s offense, which posted consecutive games of 80 points or more, looked sluggish coming out of the gates. The Pirates missed their first four shots and allowed Xavier to score eight straight points in the paint amid the Musketeers’ 8-2 run to start the game.
Myles Cale came into the game with consecutive performances of at least 17 points and continued to have the hot hand. Cale ignited the Pirates’ offense for a stint, as he scored the opening five points and totaled a team-leading nine points at halftime. Cale finished with 21 and is now averaging 19.3 points in his last three games.
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“My teammates are telling me they need me to be aggressive,” Cale said. “They keep denying Myles [Powell] and having another scorer on the floor makes it easier for him, makes it easier for the team to get going. Coach said the defense started with the guards penetrating, so if we kept them in front of us, Tyrique [Jones] would not have many opportunities to score.”
Xavier power forward Tyrique Jones, who is second in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, had his way down low in the first half. Jones scored eight points in the first four minutes of the game. His dominance continued as he went into halftime with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double. The Pirates slowed him down in the second half, however, as Jones added to his rebound total but did not score another point.
In the second half, Xavier scored in spurts to fend off the Pirates but ultimately faltered under the defensive intensity Seton Hall began to show. The Pirates forced 10 second half turnovers that led to three different scores in transition, including an emphatic dunk that got the basketball stuck in the net courtesy of Myles Powell.
Down the stretch, the Pirates began to show more signs of energy and went on a 17-2 run over a 5:41 stretch. Seton Hall had a shot to win the game with 14.5 seconds remaining, but Powell was double-teamed as he tried to get to the free throw line. Powell kicked it out to Shavar Reynolds on the wing, but the shot missed long. Cale put up a shot off an offensive rebound, but it was no good, giving Xavier the win.
Next for Seton Hall is a showdown with St. John’s in Madison Square Garden. Tipoff is scheduled for Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. With a tough stretch of St. John’s, Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova on the horizon, Seton Hall will have to put its latest loss in the rearview mirror quickly.
“Every one of our last four games is a challenge,” Willard said. “There’s no easy nights in this conference. We have a tough road ahead of us and we have to bounce back.”
Evando Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Thompsev.