As Myles Powell launched up a three with 1.4 seconds left and saw it fall, the usually exuberant superstar looked defeated instead in a clear indication of the effort his team put forth against a steady Creighton team on Wednesday night. Powell finished at an abysmal 3-for-16 overall from the field and 1-for-11 from beyond the arc as Seton Hall fell, 87-82, for the second straight time at the Prudential Center.
The loss drops the Pirates to 10-2 in conference play as the Blue Jays improve to 8-4. Suddenly, the three-game cushion that Seton Hall had after the weekend does not look as comfortable, especially with tough games against Butler and Villanova looming at home and Marquette and Creighton on the road.
“[Powell’s] shot just wasn’t falling tonight,” Quincy McKnight said. “He knows how valuable he is to us. He had a rough one tonight. We tried to pick him up and it’s just tough at the caliber he plays at when you’re not doing the things that everyone expects you to be doing, it’s going to make you feel a type of way. You can’t blame him, that’s my brother. This loss isn’t on him, its on everybody. It’s a team thing. From the head coach to the bottom coach, from the head player to the last player.”
By the time the clock was winding down, it was the McKnight himself and Shavar Reynolds show for the Pirates. The team’s two point guards led the way as Powell struggled and Sandro Mamukelashvili fouled out with 5:30 to play.
McKnight finished with 20 points and Reynolds had eight. Each tasked with guarding the always shifty Marcus Zegarowski over the game, the pair did a amicable job to limit him to eight points in the second half and 18 overall.
Creighton’s overall depth was on full display in this regard throughout the game, as five scorers were in double figures. With a shaky Powell on defense and the versatile Mamukelashvili relegated to the bench, the Pirates had a tough time defending. After letting up just 64 on the road to Villanova and a season-high 79 to St. John’s earlier in the season, the Pirates relinquished over 80 points for the first time. The entire team seemed to struggle under its own hoop in the affair.
“We had no choice [going with a small lineup],” head coach Kevin Willard said. “Once [Christian] Bishop got his third foul, him and Mahoney and Jefferson, that’s a hard matchup for Ike [Obiagu] or Ro [Gill]. They just put so much pressure on them in pick and rolls. We tried to go small and switch some stuff, but we just didn’t do a very good job in keeping guys in front of us. I thought they did a good job of attacking us.”
Perhaps the most concerning note in an otherwise even game was that no Pirate with over 10 minutes of action had a positive plus-minus rating on the court. Tyrese Samuel had a plus-4, albeit in only seven minutes of action. The closest were Powell and Reynolds who each finished even.
The usually steady Romaro Gill had a difficult time keeping up with Creighton’s quickness and being dragged out to the top of the arc throughout the night. Despite dropping 13 points, mostly on quick feeds above the rim from McKnight, Gill finished at a by far game-worst minus-13.
“As much as I love Ro [Gill], the way they were spacing us out, it was too hard, we were giving up too many easy buckets,” Willard said. “He got off to a great start with [Kelvin] Jones in there, I thought he got a couple good blocks, but once they went to a five-out offense it was hard to keep him out there.”
The frustrating thing for the Pirates after this one will be looking at it as one that got away. In most areas, such as free throws (17 of 20 for Seton Hall, 21 of 25 for Creighton), rebounds (39 to 38 Seton Hall) and points in the paint (38 to 36 Seton Hall), the two teams were even, but it just seemed as though the Blue Jays were more clinical and got better looks down low than the home team.
Through the first half, the teams exchanged runs and it ended with a two-point Creighton lead heading into the break. Willard appeared to continue his rotation that he did not at Villanova, inserting Anthony Nelson and Ike Obiagu into the lineup, but the two did not see any action as the game continued on.
Among other surprises early on was Myles Cale, who made his presence known with five points before the under-16 media timeout, looked impressive early on. He added a monster and-one slam that ignited The Rock to make it 16-13 Pirates, but he, once again, bowed out without much of an impact with seven points total in 23 minutes.
The second half was much of the same as most lead changes, 20 overall, came in the final frame. The Pirates simply could not get the stops when it counted most, however, as Creighton outscored them by three to end it.
The Pirates did a good job in making it close near the end and nearly received the ball back in Creighton’s half of the court with only a two-point deficit and 14.8 seconds to work with. Alexander toed the line after an inbound, but the referee called a Reynolds foul and not the Blue Jays’ junior’s foot on the line. The two ensuing hits more or less ended the game.
“At the end of the day, you score 82, you should have a better shot at winning on your home court,” Willard said.
Up next, Seton Hall travels up to Providence looking to get back into the win column in a Saturday night affair.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @KevinKopfHWH.