by Josh Adams
Newark- Myles Powell knew he had to step up on Wednesday night against Providence. His team needed his best effort to stop the Pirates four game losing streak. He saw the opportunity for a postseason berth slipping away after Sunday’s 29 point loss to Villanova. It was time for him to be a leader. He hosted a players only meeting with Mike Nzei on Sunday night. “We sat down and everybody talked as a team.”, said Powell, “It was a great meeting. We decided we have to get back to ourselves.”
Well, Powell got back to his usual all-Big East self with scoring 31 points in the Pirates (13-8) win over Providence (13-8), 65-63.
On a record setting cold night in New Jersey, Powell’s hot shooting got the 7,858 fans on their feet several times as the game was nip and tuck throughout the second half. It was quite the individual battle between Powell and the Friars Alpha Diallo who scored 21 points for Providence.
The term “must win” is used far too often in sports but tonight’s game certainly qualified as one of those for Seton Hall. It wasn’t that they were on a four game losing streak. They have a cache of good non-conference wins against Kentucky and Maryland that will help with their NCAA cause. It was a must win because the team felt like they were losing their identity. It’s tough to stay focused over a long college basketball season and the leaders of the team and Kevin Willard both felt that it was time to get back to basics. “I had a long conversation with someone much smarter than me on Sunday.”, Willard told the press after the game, “He reminded me that I had five kids playing thirty-plus minutes a game and are giving it their all. They’re playing their hearts out. I told them how proud I am of them, and for a team that no one thought would be in the position we are in, that if we rebound the ball we will have a chance to win.”
The leaders of the team, Powell and Nzei came to almost the same conclusion at their players only meeting on Sunday night. For them, it was being embarrassed on Sunday before a nationally televised audience against Villanova. The loss stuck in their crawl. No one was mad at the players meeting but it was decided that it was time for them to get back to the basics also. “We sat down and said we got to get back at what we do.”, said Powell, “Our backs are against the wall and we have to figure out the problem and fix it.”
They did just that with some timely defense in key spots against Providence down the stretch. In the final minute, Myles Cale denied Diallo the ball with the Friars down just one and caused a turnover. The final play of the game saw Romaro Gill block Providence’s Nate Watson layup attempt.
It was a true team effort from the Pirates and a season salvaged with the win tonight. Powell echoed Willard’s sentiment about how proud he was of his teammates after the win. “Everybody owned up to their own shortcomings and everyone produced. I saw it all week in practice.” said Powell, “Everyone wanted to do their job and win tonight. Whatever it takes, whether it’s diving for the ball or boxing out. Picking your teammate up when he’s down. Any little thing to bring that fire back. I felt everybody, even the players who weren’t on the floor contributed today.”
Tonight, Myles Powell got his fire back. Up next is a Butler team at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday. Seton Hall has won at Butler twice in the last two years. If Powell continues to play at the level we saw tonight and the defense steps up like it did tonight, the next player meeting could be under the rim at Madison Square Garden while cutting down the nets at the Big East Tournament.