With the Seton Hall men’s basketball team on a four-game win streak, their good fortunes were bound to run dry soon. That heartbreaking reality check came Sunday night as the Pirates suffered their first home loss of the season to the Providence Friars. Providence locked down Sandro Mamukelashvili for most of regulation time in this game, and they gave Seton Hall one of their most difficult games of the season in this back-and-forth home loss.
Seton Hall started the game well, scoring their first three attempts on net through a Jared Rhoden jumper and a pair of three-point shots from Shavar Reynolds Jr. and Myles Cale. From the Pirates’ first offensive play of the game, it was obvious Providence were planning to double team Mamukelashvili whenever the senior forward had the ball in his hands.
Providence managed to keep Mamukelashvili's shooting to just one-for-five in the first hald and 6-for-17 overall on the night.
“I think he’s got to understand that he’s got a target on his back,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “When you hit 20-25 points a game, you’re going to be the guy who’s stopped. He’s got to come out and be a little bit more aggressive, I think, early in games. He’s working hard, but I just think he’s coming out a little bit too casual early in games.”
Cale shot five-for-six from the field and hit all four of his attempted three-point shots in the first half. He came up big for the Pirates on a few plays defensively as well when the Friars looked to claw themselves back into the game late in the half. Rhoden also provided double-digit points with 11 to keep the Pirates afloat in Mamukelashvili’s struggles to find his scoring touch in the game.
Midway through the half, Providence found themselves on an 8-0 run and finished the half scoring nine of their last 12 shots. Seton Hall went on a two-and-a-half-minute scoring drought towards the end of the half, but a good piece of double-team defending between Cale and Rhoden saw the Pirates end their drought with a ferocious one-handed dunk by Cale. They finished shooting five-for-six from the field and went into the half up by two at 40-38.
Out the gates in the second half, the Pirates held a nine-point lead with seven of those points coming from the free throw line. After the initial flurry of free throws from the Pirates, though, the Friars kept them to one-for-11 shooting for over four minutes. They eventually took the lead just after the under-12-minute mark and looked to be putting the game to bed as they took a five-point lead with less than two minutes to play.
Reynolds came up with a big three-point shot with a minute-and-a-half to go that brought the game to within two points for the Pirates, but it was Mamukelashvili whose drive to the net won him the and-one play to send the game into overtime at 72-72.
“My game was not good, but even with that coach trusted me,” Mamukelashvili said. “I appreciate coach giving me the opportunity.”
Though Mamukelashvili started to heat up late in the second half, Cale and Rhoden had run dry in their points production. Likewise, the bench only provided seven points for the Pirates in this game while Providence’s rotation players came up with 18. Seton Hall’s final play wth 3.4 seconds left saw the ball land in Takal Molson’s hands, but he missed the three-point shot to force a second period of overtime and sealed an 80-77 home loss for the Pirates.
- This was another learning experience for Mamukelashvili as he continues to grow into his role as the main man for Seton Hall on offense. He finished the game on 20 points, six assist and six rebounds, but this isn’t the first time he’s started a game slowly as Willard pointed out. The likes of Cale, Reynolds and Rhoden did well to make up for Mamukelashvili’s absence on the scoreboard early in the game, but it proved too little too late as they sacrificed their nine-point lead and ultimately loss in over time.
- Cale and Rhoden showed they can fill in for when Mamukelashvili is running dry from the field. Although all three performing at their best at the same time is preferred, it’s more realistic that one or two of these guys needs to step up when the others are having rough patches throughout a game. Unfortunately, their hot starts in the first half cooled down as they combined for just seven points between the second half and over time. Mamukelashvili was finding the basket more by this point, but the team needed more from Cale and Rhoden down the stretch.
- Tray Jackson made his debut for Seton Hall (playing three minutes in the first half), and Bryce Aiken played another six minutes on the court. Willard said that Aiken’s still finding his feet as he continues to return from knee surgery and a sprained ankle. He also said he’s still working on finding the right group of guys to play with Jackson as he looks to get his opportunity at getting minutes for the Pirates. With bench points having been an issue in this game, Jackson and Aiken will undoubtedly be welcomed additions to the rotation in tough games like this down the stretch.
Justin Sousa can be reach at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinSousa99.