After storming back from a double-digit second-half deficit against Saint Louis, Seton Hall found itself with a chance to win the game in the waning seconds. Sandro Mamukelashvili had an open look from beyond the arc for the win, but the shot was long and Seton Hall fell by a final score of 66-64.
Throughout the evening, Seton Hall was handed multiple opportunities by a sloppy Saint Louis team that committed 27 fouls and turned the ball over 24 times, but the Pirates were unable to make the most of their chances. At the free throw line, Seton Hall shot 22-31 and only had 16 points off turnovers.
For the second consecutive game, Seton Hall also struggled to string together offense consistently and it plagued the Pirates throughout the first half and the early parts of the second half. On the game, Seton Hall shot 19-57 (33.3 percent) from the field and 4-17 (23.5 percent) from three as Saint Louis executed its defensive game plan to near perfection.
“One of our biggest issues on offense is we’re not making more than one or two passes,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “Guys are a little bit antsy to try and do stuff. It’s causing us some trouble.”
Led by veteran head coach Travis Ford, the Billikens zoned in on limiting Myles Powell, who finished with 16 points on 4-13 shooting from the field and 2-7 from deep. Powell only took two shots in the first half, did not get a shot off until the 10-minute mark and did not register his first points until 3:43 remained in the half.
“The defender wasn’t even looking at the ball early in the half,” Powell said. “It seemed like they was subbing in different guys, three to four different guys just to guard me. They were face guarding and we’re going to go back, watch the film and see how we can get better shots and how I can get better shots for my teammates.”
“This is all new for him,” Willard said of Powell facing increased attention from opposing defenses. “He didn’t get face guarded last year. He didn’t get doubled team off pick and roll. This is a big learning process of him learning to be more aggressive from the start. He’s just not used to it right now. The more he sees it, the more he’ll be able to recognize and understand what he has to do.”
Despite Powell being a non-factor in the first half, Seton Hall only trailed 33-28 at halftime due in large part to stout perimeter defense from Quincy McKnight. Once the second half rolled around, McKnight, who finished with 14 points, stepped it up on the offensive end as well and sparked a Seton Hall offense that was struggling to get anything going.
“I really liked the way he was aggressive in the second half,” Willard said. “For him, it’s getting used to a different level of competition, a different level of intensity. I really liked the way he responded in the second half. He was aggressive.”
Sarah Yenesel / Photography Editor
Although McKnight came out of the locker room energized and ready to go, Saint Louis matched that and then some. A minute into the second half, the Billikens opened up a 40-30 lead and grew that lead to 12 by the under-12 timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Seton Hall turned to a press defense and it paid off. Powell forced two quick turnovers and converted those turnovers into points to cut the lead to 50-43. By the under-eight timeout, the lead was only 54-50.
From there, the two teams went back and forth with Saint Louis opening up a 61-51 lead with four minutes remaining. Seton Hall did not quit, though, as the press defense wreaked havoc yet again and the Pirates cut the lead to 61-56 with two minutes remaining.
As Seton Hall continued to chip away in the closing minutes, the Pirates had it down to a one-possession game with 50 seconds remaining. With 16.5 seconds left on the clock, Saint Louis forward Dion Wiley, who led all scorers with 17, hit one of two free throws at the line to make it a 65-61 game. Powell then came down and drained a three from the wing for Seton Hall to cut the lead to 65-64 with 9.6 remaining in regulation.
Again, Seton Hall fouled Wiley with 8.3 remaining and he hit the first free throw, but missed the second. McKnight corralled the rebound and pushed it down the floor looking for Myles Powell on a dribble handoff, but Powell was swarmed by two Saint Louis defenders. This left Sandro Mamukelashvili wide open from beyond the three-point line and McKnight found the open man, but the shot was off.
“I looked at Myles for a dribble handoff and when I got there, there were two people there, so I decided to drive and get into the lane a little more,” McKnight said. “When I got in the lane, I saw someone drop down and I saw Sandro at the top of the key wide open. Sandro’s a great shooter and when you have a great shooter wide open like that…he stepped in and got a good look at it, but sometimes that’s how the ball bounces.”
“I thought Q pushed it, jump stop, found the open guy and got an open shot,” Willard said. “I was happy with the shot.”
With the loss, Seton Hall drops to 1-2 for the first time since the 1998-1999 season. Next up for the Pirates is a trip to the Wooden Legacy Invitational over Thanksgiving break, one that Willard is looking forward to.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there,” Willard said. “I’m looking forward to getting these guys out there and kind of getting them away from everything. They need a little change of scenery, change of pace and change of practice. Most importantly, we’re getting games under our belt. The more games we get under our belt, the better this group is going to become.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.