Despite a valiant effort in the final minutes, No. 20 Seton Hall awarded DePaul their first Big East win of the year in a 96-92 loss on Thursday. After going down by 17 at halftime and being down by as many as 18 in the first half, Seton Hall put on a clock-preserving clinic late in the game that included a 16-9 run which brought the Pirates to within 2 points with 5 seconds left.
The Pirates came out the gates looking worse than they have all year. A discombobulated offensive game plan and a defense that had far too many cracks to exploit allowed DePaul to convert 18 second chance points and 40 points in the paint.
The team did not give the Blue Demons the respect they deserved according to head coach Kevin Willard, and they paid the price, as they were heading to the locker room at halftime down 52-35.
The second half started and the Pirates had a different intensity, consistently pulling to within 12 and 11 points, but could not surpass the double-digit deficit until 2:10 remaining in regulation.
From then on, graduate student Bryce Aiken took over, scoring 6 points in the final minute, driving and generating plays and being disruptive defensively to create a comeback of sorts for the Hall despite a lower-body injury that was obviously inhibiting him. He was successful enough to bring the deficit to 2 points with 15 seconds and 5 seconds remaining, but DePaul's Jalen Terry was perfect at the line in the final seconds, keeping the Pirates' comeback attempt at bay and sealing the game for the Blue Demons.
Led by senior Jared Rhoden's 25 points and Aiken's 22, the late offensive effort from the Pirates was just not enough. 2 steals each from senior Jamir Harris and sophomore Kadary Richmond and a whopping 5 blocks from senior Ike Obiagu led the defensive effort that limited DePaul down the stretch, an effort that was assisted by the loss of DePaul and Big East scoring leader Javon Freeman-Liberty thanks to a lower-body injury.
Former highly-touted recruit and freshman Brandon Weston saw his first minutes as a Pirates, coming back from an ACL injury and COVID protocols that has kept him off the floor all season.
Despite the Hall's late-game attempt at pulling this one out, there are very few, if any, positives to take away. It was a must-win game against a winless Big East opponent that could have cemented the Pirates as a force to be reckoned with in the conference.
Now the Pirates have a quick turnaround and take on a hot Marquette team on Saturday, possibly without an Aiken who battled through an injury for the entire latter part of Thursday's matchup.