The Seton Hall men’s basketball team lost their third game of the season to the University of Rhode Island 63-76 on Wednesday night.
It was a very slow start to the game for the Pirates as they missed their first four shots of the game and allowed Rhode Island to go on a 9-0 run. Sandro Mamukelashvili scored two early free throws – a rare occurrence for Seton Hall in this game – but would not score his first shot from the field until 15 minutes into the first half. The Pirates shot 2-6 in the opening five minutes of the half whereas Rhode Island found their rhythm early shooting 5-9 from the field.
Neither Mamukelashvili nor Jared Rhoden were especially efficient in the first half, shooting 3-8 and 2-7 respectively. Shavar Reynolds put in another energetic first half performance to keep the Pirates in the game, and Takal Molson provided five points, four rebounds and an assist off the bench in the first half. Despite Mamukelashvili’s late resurgence, Rhode Island led the Pirates 35-34 heading into half time with Daron Russell and Ishmael Leggett at eight points each.
Ike Obiagu’s two free throws would give the Pirates their first lead of the game to start the second half, and both teams played a tight, one-possession game for most of the half. Both teams exchanged leads until Jeremy Sheppard made a three-point shot to give Rhode Island a 64-61 lead with six minutes left on the clock. Rhode Island never relinquished that lead afterwards.
“I don’t think Sandro played well," Kevin Willard said in his postgame radio interview. "My expectation for him, I think he’s one of the best players in the country. He’s got to play a bit more poised. He was getting sped up at times. That’s natural; he’s now responsible a lot more for creating offense.”
A collection of deficiencies and mistakes killed the Pirates’ chances of winning this game. They missed two of their four free throws in the last six minutes, shooting 6-14 from the line after going 7-9 in the first half. At the 10-minute mark Reynolds got his fourth foul of the game and was subbed out with the Pirates leading 51-50 at the time. Despite Mamukelashvili shooting 5-9 in the second half, Myles Cale and Rhoden contributed a combined eight points in the second half. Seton Hall closed out the game with nine consecutive missed shots.
- The Pirates have now gone three consecutive games where they have started slowly. This is an unfortunate tendency that carried over from last season, but, unlike last season, there is no Myles Powell to dig the team out of the hole they dug themselves into. Even if Mamukelashvili provided that type of individual performance every game, that doesn’t take away from his teammates needing to finish shots and stay switched on defensively.
- “I feel like my production levels are definitely going to have to be high, and it’s more of my energy,” Rhoden said after the Iona game. “Not so much scoring the ball and rebounding, more so uplifting my teammates and using my character as an influence without the ball in my hand.” The energy and character were there from the junior guard, but he does need to start finding his rhythm offensively. The circumstances of playing without a crowd and still coming back from a two-week quarantine are tough, but the opposition is only going to get harder with No. 21 Oregon waiting for them on Friday.
- There’s still time until the Big East opener against DePaul on Dec. 11. There’s definitely some weak points in this team that need addressing, but, aside from working their way back into rhythm after quarantining, they are still without Bryce Aiken due to injury. Reynolds’ performances at point guard have been admirable and at times inspiring when the team hits a midgame rut, and even Molson continues to be an efficient contributor off the bench on either side of the court. Nine games may not seem like much, but there’s plenty of basketball to be played in the three games before then.
Justin Sousa can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinSousa99.