Questions & Answers...
The 8,347 fans, largely Seton Hall faithful, who turned out to see Jeremy Hazell's last game at the Rock were expectant. The Pirates had stunned the Johnnies on Thursday night with an 84-70 upset, putting the Red Storm's bye seed to the Big East Tournament in doubt; the fans sensed what this squad could do, had come so close to doing all season long. Without their gunner they had rocked Dayton and Richmond for a half, but the shallow bench and inexperience had cost them in the end as their opponents had patiently chipped away and finally broken through at the end. They had stunned St. John's. Could they do it again...do it consistently? Saturday night at the Rock the Pirates came out shooting, and they did not stop all game long. They hit more threes than they had before in conference play; they sunk just enough free throws to keep their cushion. After stunning the Marquette team with a 20-8 run to start the game, the Pirates survived the see-saw of the last 32 minutes of play to secure their 85-72 win over Marquette.
The Warriors needed this win very, very much. Securing a #10 seed and stepping over the staggering Villanova Wildcats was only the most immediate benefit accrued by a win. The longer term goal was to limit the latest losing streak, started Wednesday night against Cincinnati in their own Senior Night, and to show the NCAA Selection Committee that they would not wilt at the end of the season. They left perhaps with fewer answers than when they arrived. Porous shot defense, a flaw that has sabotaged their efforts in their games with Pittsburgh, Louisville, their first games with Notre Dame & Connecticut, Georgetown and St. John's seemed to be "solved" in their three game run that included strong wins over Connecticut (in Storrs) and Providence was back again against the Hall. The first half in particular was damaging. The Pirates were able to set screens for Jeff Robinson and Jeremy Hazell that their Marquette defenders could not run through. Time and again Jordan Theodore was able to drive the lane and draw Robinson's defender off of the senior wing. With enough separation Robinson was able to take the pass, set his feet and shoot. The Pirates' 61.8% completion rate from beyond the arc was equivalent to hitting 92.7% of their two point attempts. Fatal.
The breakdown by halves...
The pace was one both squads could live with, though it seemed as if Seton Hall marginally benefited with a 4-2 scoring advantage on fast breaks. The pace was deceiving, as play stopped frequently for video reviews, foul calls and foul stoppages that became timeouts.
Seton Hall held a clear, 14 point advantage going into the intermission. By virtue of their torrid shooting spree, combined with a two turnover (versus seven for Marquette) half, the Pirates held a significant 32-24 field goal attempted advantage over Marquette. With the eight additional FGAs, the Hall was able to tease a 17-9 shot conversion advantage over the Golden Eagles, and a shocking 11-18 conversion rate for three point attempts. The Warriors played from behind from the opening tip, and never once held a lead.
Notes and Observations
1. There were 22 total fouls called in the first half alone, with Seton Hall allocated the large portion of the calls. Five Hall players had at least two fouls, including starters Hazell and Herb Pope. Two Pirates, starter Jeff Robinson and bench center Aaron Geramipoor holding three fouls before the intermission. Willard was gambling on Robinson, and the senior forward was called for a cheapie (tangled arms) with just over a minute to go in the half. The second half was even worse, with the team racking up a stunning 53 total fouls. Marquette's strategy was apparent; down by double digits for most of the game, they had to foul to regain possession. The strategy, one that had worked in the Dayton and Richmond games (and others no doubt), failed tonight because the Hall players hit enough free throws in the second half (19-22 0.864) to make the trade-off prohibitive. Robinson scored nine points in seven minutes of first half play. He picked up foul #4 15 seconds into the second half and logged only another seven minutes in that half as well. Geramipoor played a total of 13 minutes, took no shots from the field, went 0-4 from the charity stripe and committed a single turnover in 13 minutes of play.
2. The Hall got quality minutes out of both Geramipoor and Patrik Auda, two freshman forwards whose play to date has not earned them vast amounts of playing time this season. Auda in particular scored 10 points, going 3-4 from three point land and picking up an additional point at the free throw line.
3. Marquette's point guard Junior Cadougan struggled for large portions of the game. The red shirt sophomore had three assists offset by three turnovers, shot 2-6 from the field (no three pointers). Coach Buzz Williams substituted freshman Vander Blue in several times, the most critical portion of his playing time came late in the second half, when Blue had to deal with a rare Pirate press. Robinson guarded the inbounder Blue, and taunted him relentlessly. The strategy worked, as Blue became so rattled that he threw the pass away at one point. Odd coaching decision at that critical juncture of the game.
4. Marquette coach Buzz Williams took over an hour to "meet the press". The Rock has one of the larger, more accessable press lounges in the conference, yet despite Willard's eight minute stint before the assembled ink and elecronic media, the Marquette coach took over an hour to emerge and give an impromptu interview outside the Marquette locker room. When he emerged, it was clear he had showered and exchanged his suit and tie for a pair of sweats. A St. Benedict's player waited patiently with the press. When Williams emerged, he embraced the player and they talked for several minutes before the coach turned to engage the few media people left (a fraction of the number who covered the game).
Because This is a Villanova Blog...
Despite losing by 10 to Pittsburgh, Marquette's loss gives the BET's #10 seed to Villanova. The Wildcats face South Florida Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
Seton Hall finishes the regular season at 13-17, 7-11 in conference play. The Pirates, the #12 seed, will play #13 seed Rutgers Tuesday at 2:00pm. This is the rubber game for 2011. The teams boast records of 1-1 against each other. Marquette which finished the regular season with an 18-13 overall record and a 9-9 record in conference play, draws the #11 seed to the BET, and will play #14 Providence at 9:00pm Tuesday night.