Feb. 10, 2014
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - The Seton Hall men's basketball team begins a pivotal three-game homestand on Tuesday night when the Marquette Golden Eagles visit the Prudential Center in a matchup of two teams looking to climb the congested BIG EAST standings.
The coming weeks will go a long way towards clarifying the postseason picture for Seton Hall (13-10, 4-6). The Hall currently sits eighth in the league after falling 70-53 at #6/#6 Villanova on Friday. Over the next three games however, the Pirates will play host to the three squads that are directly ahead of them in the standings, beginning with fifth-place Marquette (13-10, 5-5), followed by St. John's (2/13) who is in seventh and then sixth-place Georgetown (2/20).
Seton Hall never led in the second half at Villanova on Friday, sustaining a rare lopsided road loss to move to 3-3 in the last six contests. Only Sterling Gibbs (Scotch Plains, N.J.), who turned in a team-high 16 points; and Eugene Teague (Vineland, N.J.) managed to score in double-figures against the Wildcats as Seton Hall fell in its first attempt to avenge a loss earlier in the conference season.
The Pirates were coming off a 68-60 victory at Xavier (2/1), and had won three of their first five conference contests away from home. Both of the previous two road defeats had come by one-point apiece, including a 67-66 setback at Marquette on January 11.
Offensive efficiency has been a key factor in a recent three-game stretch in which The Hall has averaged less than 60 points per game as the Pirates have converted on less than 45 percent of its field goals in each outing. For their part, the Golden Eagles rank near the bottom of the BIG EAST in nearly every offensive efficiency category since the start of league play, most notably shooting a league-worst 27.8 percent from 3-point range.
Marquette does however head into Tuesday's contest looking to build on a strong second half performance that lifted head coach Buzz Williams' squad over last-place Butler last week. Trailing by two at halftime, the Golden Eagles sank 18 of their 30 shot attempts (60.0 percent) in the final 20 minutes to rally past the Bulldogs for a 69-62 home victory. Senior Jamil Wilson finished with 17 points, as did Todd Mayo who came off the bench to shoot 7-of-10 in the final frame.
The duo of Wilson and Mayo had combined for just one point in a loss at St. John's in the previous outing, but the two still stand as Marquette's second and third-leading scorers in conference play at 11.3 and 9.4 points per game respectively.
The Pirates will aim to slow what has proven to be a dynamic inside-out combo given that when the teams last squared off, Wilson (16 pts) and Mayo (19 pts) accounted for 35 of the squad's 67 points with Derrick Wilson (8 pts) finishing as the only other Golden Eagle with more than six points.
After heading into the locker room down 14, the Pirates stormed back behind seven 3-pointers in the second half alone, including one by Brian Oliver (Glassboro, N.J.) that cut the Marquette advantage to 65-63 with 23 seconds to play. Following two made free-throws from Mayo, Wilson used the Golden Eagles' foul to give with 17 seconds on the clock. Unable to get a look, Seton Hall called timeout and drew up a play that resulted in a layup attempt for Fuquan Edwin (Paterson, N.J.) but his scoop rimmed out and Wilson corralled the rebound.
Gibbs sank a long-range trey at the buzzer to trim the final deficit to one, but Marquette hung on for its fourth-straight win in the series.
Aside from the second half charge, there were several areas of the game in which head coach Kevin Willard's team exceled and can continue to exploit in the rematch on Tuesday. The Pirates turned 12 Golden Eagles turnovers into 22 points in the first matchup while also neutralizing the team's leading scorer - big man Davante Gardner - in spite of the absence of Teague who missed the game due to symptoms stemming from a concussion sustained against Lafayette in the non-conference finale.
Gardner, who started against the Pirates but has returned to a reserve role in the last three games, was limited to only six points in 34 minutes as he and frontcourt mate Chris Otule combined for just 12 points and eight boards against an undermanned Seton Hall front line that received a 10-point, eight-rebound effort from junior Patrik Auda (Brno, Czech Republic).
Teague is averaging 9.7 points per game in six BIG EAST appearances and his added presence coupled with the emergence of forward Stephane Manga (Orleans, France), who has started the last two games and tallied nine points in nine minutes at Marquette in January, could provide The Hall the boost it needs to overcome the league's top defensive unit.
Seton Hall and Marquette will face one another for the fifth time in the last three seasons when the two teams take the floor tomorrow at the Prudential Center. FOX Sports 1 will be on hand to provide a national telecast with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. The Hall's radio team of Gary Cohen and Dave Popkin can be heard on 970 AM (WNYM) or through the Pirate Sports Network on SHUPirates.com.