by Josh AdamsFollow @ncaahoopsdigest
NEWARK- It was a special night at the Prudential Center as TV analyst and former Pirates Coach Bill Raftery was honored with a bobblehead of his likeness given to every fan. As it turns out, the Seton Hall fans were the ones really bobbling the heads in a sideways motion after the Pirates second consecutive home loss at the Blue Jays came into Newark and pulled off the upset. The Top 10 ranked Pirates were coming off an emotional win at Villanova this past weekend but were caught flat-footed against a well coached Creighton team that had five players in double figures in an 87-82 win. On a night that saw Myles Powell only score 12 points and miss 10 out 11 three point attempts, the Pirates had their role players step up on offense but it was their defense that let them down in the remaining moments of the game as Denzel Mahoney hit a three pointer for the Blue Jays with a minute left in the second half to ice the game.
With their newly minted Top 10 status and Powell coming off an national TV interview on Sportscenter, the Pirates (18-6, 10-2) were rightly getting national attention and some major publications were starting to give the Pirates a little Final Four credibility. While there’s no reason even after tonight’s result to not think the Pirates couldn’t pull off a major run in the NCAA Tournament, if Powell has a game like he had tonight in the NCAA’s, it will be an early exit for the Pirates in March. The All-American was clearly forcing his shot tonight and didn’t find any sort of rhythm against the Creighton guards. On defense, the Pirates gave up a season high 87 points on their home floor. There were breakdowns in communication including leaving Mahoney wide open for the game winner with a minute left in the contest.
Powell was unavailable for comment after the game but Seton Hall center Romaro Gill referenced Powell’s off-night to the reporters after the game, “We are all human. We all have our bad days.”, Gill said about Powell’s 3-16 from the field tonight. It was a breakdown on both ends as Gill thought the defense didn’t box out enough on shot attempts. “I give them (Creighton) credit. They played great”, said Gill, “We have to go back and prepare now for a good Providence team on Saturday.”
Pirates coach Kevin Willard blamed himself for tonight’s loss. “I didn’t do a very good job of getting these guys ready from this type of pace.”, said Willard, “They play such a different pace than Villanova that walks it up and makes you defend for 25 seconds and we had a hard time getting into transition defense.”
Willard said six of his players had the flu this week and Rhoden, Samuel and Mamu all missed practice this week due to illness. Mamu was effective tonight with 13 points but was limited by foul trouble and was on the bench for the final 5:29 of the game after picking up his fifth foul. The Pirates got the usual great game from Quincy McKnight who led all scorers with 20 points. Former walk-on Shavar Reynolds made some key buckets to keep the Pirates close in the second half
Creighton coach Greg McDermott knows a thing or two about winning in the Big East and he took a big picture approach to the win tonight. “Every win like this helps you in the NCAA Tournament picture but in this league it’s really fragile.”, McDermott said to the press after the game. “Anything can happen and you’re a sprained ankle or the flu awat from a three game losing streak so you have to stay ready, you have to stay married to the process if we do that then we will be in good shape.”
Five Blue Jays were in double figures with Ty-Shon Alexander, Marcus Zegarowski and Damien Jefferson all scoring 18 points. Creighton (19-6, 8-4) and McDermott stated how much tonight’s win means big picture: “We’re fighting to keep ourselves in the title race and we knew if we were going to stick around, we had to win tonight.”
There’s no cause for alarm yet with the Seton Hall faithful and there’s a very winnable games coming up on the road against Providence before welcoming Butler into Newark next Wednesday. As Quincy McKnight sat and reflected on tonight’s loss with reporters, he thought of the big picture of the entire season and found some optimisim going forward. “Things happen in basketball.”, McKnight mused about tonight’s game. “It’s not our first loss of the season but hopefully it’s our last one.”