by Josh Adams
Clang. You could hear the fans at the Prudential Center on Wednesday night get more frustrated with every missed Seton Hall free throw.
Clang. You could see it in the faces of the Pirates players as the free throw missing malady seemed to pass through the team like a bad flu.
Clang. The misses added up as Seton Hall left 13 points on the free throw line, going 20-33 from the charity stripe as the Pirates lost at home to Marquette 88-85 in front of 8,210 fans that saw a Seton Hall team with no sense of urgency drop their second game in a row.
As the conference schedule is now in the stretch run, the Pirates wanted to avenge their blowout loss on Marquette home floor last month. Seton Hall center Angel Delgado told the press after that game, “They’ll see the real Seton Hall team next time around.”
Well, the Golden Eagles have a backcourt that gives Seton Hall fits. The combination of Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard combined for 45 points in the Marquette win in January and tonight Howard had 32 points and Rowsey chipped in 15 as the visiting Golden Eagles swept the series with Seton Hall with a win that served as a punch in the gut to Seton Hall fans and players.
The game was entertaining from the get-go as both teams used an up-tempo offense that saw Howard and forward Sam Hauser give the Golden Eagles an early lead thanks to porous defense on the perimeter from the Pirates. Marquette’s defense wasn’t exactly a brick wall either. Seton Hall forward Desi Rodriguez found himself the recipient of some good assists that put him in the position for some easy layups. The back and forth first half ended with a 42-41 Marquette lead and a little pushing and shoving between the two teams as the horn sounded.
The crux of Seton Hall’s problems manifested themselves in the second half as the Pirates had no problems getting to the free throw line. Once there, it was a nightmare. At home, there’s really no excuse to shoot 20-33 from the line but that’s exactly what the Pirates did. On the other side of the ball, Howard and Rowsey kept hitting shot after shot against Seton Hall’s defense and when they went to the line, it was as close to automatic as it gets. The Golden Eagles shot 20-23 from the free throw line and Howard, Rowsey and Hauser combined to shoot 11-18 from the three point arc. As Seton Hall clawed it’s way back into the game in the final moments, it became a game of free throws and Rowsey and Howard converted while Seton Hall didn’t. Myles Powell hit a halfcourt three at the buzzer for Seton Hall, but it wasn’t enough as Marquette (14-10, 5-7) got the win while Seton Hall (17-7, 6-5) drops a game that will certainly have NCAA Tournament implications in the future.
“One and one’s (free throws) really hurt us.”, said Pirates coach Kevin Willard after the loss, “It’s something we work on and we’re practicing but it becomes more of a mental thing when we miss a couple.”
Rodriguez was really tough on himself and the team after the loss. “Our defense sucked today. It wasn’t our best effort.”, said Rodriguez, “We had no energy, no effort on the defensive end.”
Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski was complimentary of his team if not a bit humble after the win. “We just happened to play well each time we played them. I don’t think there’s any secrets there.” The Golden Eagles defense was successful in containing Pirates center Angel Delgado in the second half holding him without his customary double-double of points and rebounds. Delgado was 3 rebounds short of a double-double tonight and Wojo singled out Matt Heldt for guarding him closely. “We were real physical and we did a great job of blocking him out.” Wojo said, “He’s as good a college big guy as there is in the country.”
Time is running out for the Seton Hall seniors and to their credit, Rodriguez and Ish Sanogo took responsibility for the team’s low energy game tonight. The team travels to Washington this Saturday to play Georgetown and get back into the win column. I have a feeling that these seniors will want to look back after their playing careers and know they left it all on the court. Tonight’s effort wasn’t one they were proud of. The talent is there for them to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. The legacy of this team will be whatever effort they put forward in the final few months of their careers. Stay tuned.