NEWARK, NJ – Facing their highest ranked opponent of the season, the Seton Hall Pirates could not live up to the challenge.
Playing without seniors Fuquan Edwin, Aaron Geramipoor and Eugene Teague, the Pirates were outmatched by No. 8 Villanova, losing their second straight game, 83-67, on Wednesday at the Prudential Center.
“To be honest, it really hurts not having Eugene (Teague) and Aaron (Gerimpoor),” Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said. “We had to protect Patrik (Auda) and Brandon (Mobley) because they got into foul trouble. So when you start doubling JayVaughn (Pinkston) like we did and after a while they know its coming, your weak-side assignments can sometimes lapse and that’s what happened to us.”
The Pirates had the early lead when senior Brian Oliver hit a three to open the game, but the Wildcats took over soon after. Villanova answered with a 14-3 run and never looked back from there.
Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono combined for 33 points, almost all coming from beyond the arc. The Pirates perimeter defense struggled throughout the contest, allowing 12 3-pointers.
“They’re a good basketball team,” Willard said. “(Villanova head coach) Jay (Wright) has done a phenomenal job. They’re tough, they’re unselfish, they play really good defense. We cut it to five, we cut it to seven and they come down and hit some tough shots. That’s what they’ve done all year. They’ve made tough plays.”
Late in the first half and into the second, the Pirates cut an 11-point lead to five twice following free throws and a 3-pointer from Sterling Gibbs. However, each time the Pirates made a run at Villanova, the Wildcats hit a clutch shot of their own to kill any Seton Hall momentum.
“It's tough,” senior Brian Oliver said. “They’re a good team. They answered our runs. They answered right back, whenever we tried to make a run.”
Despite Oliver’s third 20-point game of the season, 13 points each from Auda and Gibbs, the Pirates fall to 10-6 (1-2 in Big East play). With a quick turnaround leading up to Marquette, Willard said his team is in good spirits midway through a tough opening.
“I knew the first six games were going to be tough, no matter what,” he said. “Villanova is a good team, Creighton is a good basketball team. We just have to stay focused on getting better.”
The start of a three-game road trip begins on Saturday in Wisconsin. Tip-off from Marquette is scheduled for 2 p.m. The Pirates then have a week off before heading to Washington D.C. to face Georgetown.