Ever since the inception of the ‘new Big East,’ Seton Hall has been the only team to beat the Villanova Wildcats once every season since 2013. On Saturday afternoon at the Prudential Center in Newark, these two teams were set up for a very anticipated showdown.
In front of Seton Hall’s largest attended game at the Prudential Center since the venue opened in 2006, 16,733 watched what seemed like an opportunity for the Pirates to cash in on an upset over the No. 2-ranked Wildcats.
With the student section roaring and The Rock, well, rocking, the Pirates opened up the game with a quick burst of energy to take a 9-3 lead. But the Wildcats would go on a run of their own to take a 17-11 lead with 12:05 remaining in the second half. Kris Jenkins and Jalen Brunson specifically were leading the way.
Throughout the duration of the first half, Villanova was able to hold onto a steady six-to-eight point lead. But with 2:48 remaining in the first half, Seton Hall was able to cut the deficit to one as Desi Rodriguez hit a 3-pointer, making the score 31-30.
The Pirates were able to stay close due to the absence of Darryl Reynolds down low, as they ran inside out-action through Angel Delgado in the paint. Just as it seemed that the capacity crowd in attendance at The Rock was in for a thriller, ‘Nova went on a huge run to close out the first half.
As a result of empty Seton Hall possessions and a quick flurry of 3-pointers from the Wildcats, ‘Nova took a 42-31 lead into the locker room at halftime. The second half turned into the Villanova show.
The Wildcats played nearly flawless basketball in the second half, while the Pirates seemed to have no energy at all. Villanova was simply operating like a machine from the field in the second half, even hitting jump shots as Pirate defenders closed out on them.
Seton Hall on the other hand in the second half reverted to classic “Hall Ball,” taking undisciplined shots and committing a handful of unforced turnovers. This game got bad. At one point in the second half, the Wildcats held a 27-point lead. Villanova delivered a knockout punch early in the second half that Seton Hall could not recover from, resulting in the final score of 92-70.
With this win, Villanova is very close to clinching the regular season Big East title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Big East Tournament. Seton Hall continues to live life on the bubble with a must-win game coming up Wednesday night once again at home as they take on Xavier.
Things We Learned
Villanova is the most balanced team in the nation
Many people refer to Gonzaga as the deepest team in the nation. They have multiple guys who can play the guard positions and big down low and go deep into their bench. But no team in the nation, in my opinion, matches the balance of Villanova. Sitting 12 rows back from the court watching the Wildcats dominate the Hall was painful for Pirates fans, but also a thing of beauty.
It is just amazing to break down Villanova’s offense and look at how they move the ball and how many different ways they attack you. The fact that their fourth-leading scorer scored 15 points is very impressive. Along with that, it just wasn’t Villanova’s top four scorers who all threw up high numbers of shots. Their offense played very efficiently.
As a team, the Wildcats shot 67.3 percent and only missed 15 field goals the whole game. For a team as balanced as Villanova is on the offensive end, and the fact that they have a legitimate Wooden award candidate in Josh Hart, they may be even better than last year’s National Championship team and ready to defend their title.
Seton Hall’s problem may be difficult to fix
In order to correct offensive and defensive miscues, all a team needs to do is look over game film and make adjustments during weekly practices. But the problem may lie deeper than this for the Seton Hall Pirates.
With Kevin Willard as head coach, Seton Hall has had their share of locker room issues over the past few years. It may have not been visible to the average person watching the game on their television, but as a spectator, there were some issues.
Multiple times, there were disagreements over miscommunication on the floor. Additionally, during a timeout in the second half, Willard and Desi Rodriguez could be seen exchanging words.
By no means does this loss destroy the Pirates’ NCAA tournament chances, but if the Pirates cannot figure out how to get on to the same page, this season may have an ugly ending.
As lopsided as the outcome of this game was, it was a fun atmosphere good to see the Prudential Center with its curtain up on the second level. The Big East continues to generate fun atmospheres and great fan support, which in the long run can only help the conference and bring exposure and top talent aboard.