Seton Hall’s loss to Xavier halted its 10-game winning streak and perfect start to Big East play, but the Pirates’ biggest loss of the day came just before the under-four timeout.
Quincy McKnight’s left knee severely buckled on a drive to the rim and was unable to put any sort of pressure on it as he was helped off the floor and taken back to the locker room for further evaluation.
Here is a replay of Quincy McKnight’s injury. pic.twitter.com/1WbjqyfU89
— Tyler (@tyler_calvaruso) February 1, 2020
On his postgame radio interview with Gary Cohen and Dave Popkin, Kevin Willard said the first diagnosis of McKnight’s injury “isn’t as bad as it looks” and there is no structural damage to McKnight’s knee, which was the main area of concern when he went down. A possible timetable for McKnight’s return is currently up in the air.
“I have no idea until I get an MRI,” Willard told reporters after the game. “The preliminary was that most of the structural stuff was good and we wouldn’t know [the severity] until we got the MRI. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor.”
As for the game itself, Xavier opened on a 30-4 run, dominated Seton Hall in every hustle stat and ended the Pirates’ 10-game winning streak and undefeated run in Big East play by a final score of 74-62.
Seton Hall came alive at the end of the first half to make it a game, but Xavier’s red-hot start was too much for the Pirates to overcome in the end. The Musketeers started 12-17 from the field, out-rebounded Seton Hall 30-9 and registered 10 second-chance points in the first half. Xavier finished with a 51-26 advantage on the glass.
“We got taken to the woodshed,” Willard said. “We got down early and we started scrambling a little bit. When you start scrambling against good, physical teams, you’re going to give up offensive rebounds.”
Xavier’s performance in the first 10 minutes sent a clear message that it wanted revenge for its home loss to Seton Hall in early January. Despite dropping two in a row, including a double-overtime heartbreaker to Marquette earlier this week, the Musketeers came out like the team they were expected to be in the preseason and built a 22-4 lead by the under-12 timeout. By the under-eight, Xavier held a commanding 30-6 lead as Seton Hall’s struggles on both ends of the floor persisted.
“It was really bad,” said Jared Rhoden. “We didn’t rebound the ball well or communicate. We didn’t play Seton Hall basketball today. That’s on us.”
The tide started to turn in Seton Hall’s favor around the seven-minute mark of the half. At this point, Willard yanked Myles Cale and went Rhoden at small forward and Sandro Mamukelashvili at the four. The Pirates’ new-look lineup provided a spark, as they were able to bring Xavier’s lead from 24 to 17 at the six-minute mark.
Things really picked up for Seton Hall coming out of the under-four timeout, as Xavier’s shots started to fall short and the Pirates’ full-court press made its offense run a little less smoothly. 10 first-half turnovers by the Musketeers played into Seton Hall’s hands and the Pirates were able to cut Xavier’s lead to 35-23 at the half.
“We didn’t have good energy out there today,” Willard said. “The first unit…I thought they had bad body language. That’s why I went with Jared and Sandro. I loved their energy in the first half to get us back within striking distance.”
Despite Seton Hall’s best efforts at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second, Xavier did enough to keep the Pirates at bay. Naji Marshall, who finished with 19 points, continued his hot-shooting ways to lead Xavier’s offense. Tyrique Jones was also a major contributor with a monster stat line of 19 points and 18 rebounds.
“I thought Tyrique Jones did a great job being on the baseline. When we tried to get some blocks, he cleaned up the weak side,” Willard said. “I thought he did a great job. That’s the best I’ve seen Tyrique play.”
Xavier kept Seton Hall around 10 points down for the remainder of the action. Myles Powell had a chance to cut the Musketeers’ lead to seven at the nine-minute mark, but his shot sat on the rim before eventually falling off – a microcosm of Seton Hall’s Saturday afternoon at the Prudential Center.
Sandro Mamukelashvili sent shockwaves through the arena with an and-one off a steal to make it 60-53 with 7:01 remaining, but committed a foul on Jones at the other end that resulted in a Xavier and-one to push its lead back to 10 — a lead that was more than enough for the Musketeers to come away with the win.
-If Quincy McKnight is indeed out for an extended period of time, it changes the outlook of Seton Hall’s entire season. He is the Pirates’ go-to lockdown defender and a big-time presence on the court. He will be missed dearly if he is sidelined.
-Myles Powell finished the first half with four points, continuing a stretch of poor opening half performances. It goes without saying that Seton Hall’s offensive operation isn’t as smooth when its star player isn’t contributing in the scoring column. Kevin Willard is going to have to make some adjustments and place an emphasis on finding offense elsewhere if Powell’s first-half struggles persist.
-Xavier flat out out-hustled Seton Hall in the opening minutes and it cost the Pirates in the end. It was encouraging to see Seton Hall come alive at the end of the first half, but the poor starts to games that have become commonplace in recent weeks need to come to an end. Playing with fire like that on a game-by-game basis is not going to pay off. Not every game is going to end in a miraculous second-half comeback.
-As Myles Cale’s offensive struggles progress, you have to wonder if Willard is seriously considering moving Jared Rhoden to the three and inserting in the starting lineup at the Sandro Mamukelashvili at the four. It probably won’t happen until Willard feels Sandro has shaken off all of his rust, but it is certainly something that he needs to consider.
-Myles Powell has not been the same shooting the ball since coming back from his concussion. It’s impossible to tell if his poor shooting is due to any residual effect of the concussion, but if there is anyone who is going to bounce back shooting the rock, it’s him.
“Teams are doing a really good job of throwing two, three guys on him coming off screens,” Willard said. “They’re doing a good job of putting bigger, taller guys on him. I think he’s gotten some good looks, but every once in a while you go through a bad stretch shooting the basketball. He’s just struggling a little bit right now.”
-Let’s face it. Seton Hall’s winning streak was not going to last forever. This team was not going to run the table in Big East play. That’s not the nature of the conference. Who knows? Maybe a punch to the gut is exactly what this Seton Hall team needed entering the second half of Big East play.
“We weren’t going undefeated. I said it at the beginning of the year when we were losing some games,” Willard said. “We weren’t going undefeated in conference play. It’s great that we started off 8-0, but if you don’t play well in this league, you’re going to take a loss. It’s one loss. It’s conference play. It’s going to happen.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.