Kevin Willard’s 13-10 Pirates play in the first of a three-game home stand taking on another 13-10 team in Buzz Williams’ Golden Eagles.
The Hall comes off an ugly 70-53 loss to No. 6 Villanova, but did get a 68-60 win over Xavier on its two-game road swing. The problem for the Pirates is that they have not played anywhere near as well in Newark as they have on the road. With five of their last eight games in the regular season inside the Prudential Center, it is time to turn it on.
Sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs scored 16 points while senior center Gene Teague pitched in 10, but Villanova had four in double-figures in Friday’s blowout. The Hall’s main issue throughout the last road trip was efficiency. Committing 15 turnovers against the Wildcats produced 16 points. On top of the fact that SHU gave up the ball, Willard’s team also fell in the battle on the glass, 34-25.
Averaging 74.5 points per game coming into Tuesday night, Seton Hall was held well below that on Friday as ball movement lacked. If the Pirates want to win Tuesday, getting into a defensive battle may not be the right way to go. Marquette, who was the preseason favorite in the Big East, has underperformed, but its physicality is the key for Buzz Williams’ team.
Teague, who is averaging 10.4 points and eight boards per game, missed the first match-up against the Golden Eagles for The Hall, which was a 67-66 loss for the Pirates. Marquette’s frontcourt-oriented offense actually had the leaders coming from the perimeter outside of Jamil Wilson. With Teague back, The Hall can now be able to counter big men Chris Otule, Jamil Wilson, and Davante Gardner. Gardner was held to six points in 34 minutes on Jan. 11, but comes into Tuesday’s match-up averaging 14.6 points and six boards per contest.
It was guard Todd Mayo that torched the Pirates with 19 points. Mayo is averaging just over nine points per game, as it will be important for SHU to keep him from going off again. When Marquette has found scoring from the perimeter, this team has been a different entity. Marquette has shot under 28 percent from beyond the three-point arc, which goes to explain what this team’s major flaw has been. At 5-5 in the conference, it has been a roller coaster ride, as the Golden Eagles have followed each conference win with a loss. Senior forward Jamil Wilson had 16 points for Marquette in the Jan. 11 win. If it isn’t Gardner, it’s Wilson, and that is why the game in the paint will determine the winner of this game.
The Pirates can hit the long ball, but having Teague and even senior center Aaron Geramipoor at complete strength enables Seton Hall to have junior forwards Patrik Auda (10 points, eight rebounds on Jan. 11) and Brandon Mobley to carry the weight at the four-position. Senior guard Fuquan Edwin looks to bounce back from an eight-point performance at Villanova, as the Pirates guard play has been led by the senior, but is nowhere near the same without Edwin going. If Teague is not being fed, Seton Hall just isn’t at its full potential. Without the ability to grind in the paint against a Marquette team that is 68th in the country in rebounds with 37.5 per game, the Pirates just will not be able to win this game barring an explosive shooting night.
As much as teams have targeted Marquette on the perimeter because of the Golden Eagles’ backcourt issues, it will take the ability to battle for boards down low if SHU is to win this game. The Pirates are running out of chances to still vie for a spot for the sixth seed in the Big East Tournament. Stuck at eighth, the time to make a move comes once more for the blue and white.
Series History: Marquette has won 12 of the 14 games in the series, including a home-and-home sweep last year and the 67-66 win this season.
Stat of the Day According to Marquette Athletics: Marquette has alternated a win with a loss (13 games) dating back to a Dec. 17 victory over Ball State.