by Josh Adams
Newark, NJ- The Seton Hall Pirates opened up their home slate at the Prudential Center on Saturday night in front of an opening game record 7,824 fans as the Billikens from St. Louis University came into New Jersey and broke the collective heart of the Seton Hall faithful by inching out a hard fought win over the Pirates, 66-64. The Pirates start the 2018-19 season with a 1-2 record, their first time with that opening record since 1998-99.
Trailing for practically the entire game, the Pirates had the chance to win as time ran out as Quincy McKnight drove into the lane and found Sandro Mamukelashvili for a wide open three pointer to give the Pirates the win but Sandro’s shot rimmed out and Saint Louis held on to stay undefeated this season.
The first half was ugly basketball as both teams were a little out of sorts to start the game. There were quite a few turnovers, air balls, ugly shoots and miscommunications going on with both teams in the early going. Seton Hall couldn’t seem to establish any rhythm as the Billikens held their best player, Myles Powell, without a shot for the first twelve minutes of the first half. Seton Hall’s offense floundered as they couldn’t knock down open looks and St. Louis simply out-hustled them on the boards and took a 33-28 lead into the locker room at the half.
The second half was more of the same as the Billikens quickly cranked their lead up to ten in the first moments of the second half. Facing a double digit deficit, Seton Hall started to chip away at the lead as Powell started hitting shots and transfer guard Quincy McKnight pulled the brakes on St. Louis running away with the game. McKnight was the most efficient player for Seton Hall tonight, with 14 points and playing stellar defense in the final minutes to give the Pirates a punchers chance at winning. After a flurry of back and forth possessions, McKnight found Sandro for a wide open three pointer that would’ve put Seton Hall up one at the final buzzer. It was a clean look but it just didn’t fall and the Pirates were on the losing end in front of a disappointed home crowd.
Powell had 16 points in the effort. McKnight had 14 and Sandro had 11 for the Pirates who shot just 33% (19-57) from the field for the game.
St. Louis Dion Wiley had 17 points to lead them to victory. Wiley hit two three pointers late in the second half to pad the Billikens lead.
The Pirates fall to 1-2 and now travel cross country to play in the Wooden Legacy in Fullerton, California over Thanksgiving weekend.
The fans understandably have a hangover from the last three years of success that the program has had. This young Seton Hall team will have a rough go with a brutal non-conference schedule that includes Louisville and Kentucky and will have Grand Canyon to start the Wooden Legacy and will either play Hawaii or Utah in the second round. Saint Louis was no cupcake scheduling either. The Billikens were ranked first in the Atlantic 10 Conference by most preseason polls. It will be tough sledding but the talent will hopefully mesh once the Big East Conference play starts in December. Remember, the conference is as wide open as it’s been since it’s realignment in 2014. Villanova lost two straight at home this week to Michigan and Furman. Problems like turnovers and inexperience that happen to teams in November can be fixed by January.
“I’m getting more comfortable running the offense. I’m getting more comfortable playing the game after sitting out a year. I’m definitely getting back into my grove. I think the whole team is settling in. We’ll be good.”
– Quincy McKnight on his game tonight
“We fought. We fought back. We were down 10, it was looking like they were going to pull away but we showed that even though we’re a young team, we have grit. At the end, it was only a one possession game and we had a chance to win on a last second shot to win the game.”
– McKnight on positives from tonight’s loss
“This is all new to him. He’s never been faceguarded before. This is all a learning process for him. The more he sees it, the more he’ll recognize it and adjust.”
– Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard on St. Louis playing aggressive defense on Myles Powell
“One of our biggest issues on offense right now is that were not making more than one or two passes on offense right now. Our guys are a little bit ancy to try some things right now and it’s causing us some trouble.”
– Willard on Seton Hall’s problems scoring points on Saturday
+ 9 McKnight
– 10 Nelson