No. 15 Seton Hall dropped their first Big East Conference matchup and first game in 17 days against No. 21 Providence on Wednesday, 70-65. In a weak defensive showing, the Pirates allowed for five different Friars to score double-digit points, including 17 from Noah Horchler, a graduate student who shot 5-6 from three-point range.
The outlook already looked dismal for the Pirates even before the clock started, as the school announced shortly prior to tip that the roster would be without six players thanks to COVID-19 protocols, including Tyrese Samuel and Ike Obiagu, two integral pieces that would have played a big role against Providence's Nate Watson in the paint.
Those two, along with Brandon Weston, Ryan Conway, Sylwester Granda, and Tyler Powell were placed in COVID protocols, on top of associate head coach Grant Billmeier, assistant coach Duane Woodward, and coordinator of basketball operations Kevin Lynch. In the same release, the team announced the end of Jahari Long's season due to knee surgery, a procedure he underwent on Dec. 20.
With these losses, head coach Kevin Willard only had eight players to work with off the bench.
The Pirates saw themselves up early, at one point leading 22-19 with 5:41 remaining in the first half, but a quick 15-0 scoring run for Ed Cooley's squad broke the game open and gave the Friars a lead Seton Hall could not surmount.
Some solid individual performances allowed Seton Hall to stay within arm's reach, as four Pirates had double-digit points, led by Alexis Yetna's double-double. The senior forward put up 13 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
Bryce Aiken added 11 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals despite a less-than-stellar 3-11 shooting performance that was elevated by 66.7% shooting from behind the arc.
Both Tray Jackson and Jared Rhoden dropped 10 points as well. All of Jackson's came in the first half, and Rhoden, despite an uncharacteristically quiet game, came down with 10 rebounds.
As the game dragged on, it became increasingly obvious that the Pirates had not played in well over two weeks, as the offense looked sloppy and, even with some solid defensive possessions, allowed the Friars to slip through the cracks of their perimeter defense far too often.
Seton Hall was missing key pieces in their interior offense, and their three-point shooting paid the price, as they finished the game a sorry 4-19 from deep.
The slim pickings off the bench did not help either. In the season's first 10 games, the Pirate bench outscored their opponents' 321-136. On Wednesday, both benches scored 16 points.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, the bench will not be full again until they face off with UCONN on Jan. 8. As for their Jan. 1 game against No. 22 Villanova and Jan. 4 game at Butler, they will have to settle for the shortened bench with the eight players they had to work with on Wednesday.