NEWARK, N.J. - Athletes live and die when dealing with adversity. If you can't handle the tough times, as well as the good times, it is almost impossible to be successful. That's why a veteran or two are key come February and March.
Unfortunately for Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard, there is only one senior, a graduate-transfer from Iona, on a roster that features a starting lineup of two freshman and a bench that contains three sophomores.
During Saturday's 65-59 loss to No. 24 Cincinnati, the adversity and lack of veteran leadership was apparent.
"Everyday in practice I tell the guys that adversity shows people's true colors," red-shirt junior Brian Oliver said. "You always find out who you really are when things don't go your way. When your backs against the wall, you just kind of got to make it work. You have to find a way."
The Pirates dropped their sixth game in seven tries since opening the Big East season with a win at DePaul. On Saturday, the Pirates and Bearcats were tied in the final two minutes of the first half before Cincinnati went on a 15-2 run that lasted until the 14:47 mark of the second half.
Seton Hall's defense allowed there 3-pointers during the stretch and found themselves down 48-28 before junior Fuquan Edwin hit a deep ball of his own.
Down, 17, the Pirates opened up a 17-2 run of their own to cut the lead to four twice, but a turnover from Gene Teague followed by a corner 3-pointer from Cincinnati's junior Sean Kilpatrick ended the Pirates hope of a dramatic come-from-behind upset.
"We're not far away," Willard said. "Most of our guys are young guys and going through it right now. Some of our young guys are struggling. I like where we are at, but we are unfortunate that we are going through it and getting the other end of some good teams."
Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, who along with Willard were assistant coaches under Rick Pitino at Louisville before become head coaches at mid-major colleges and later rival Big East schools, said it takes time to build a team that can overcome adversity and big leads.
"Fortunately, I got veterans where Kevin [Willard] does not," Cronin said. "Fortunately for me, unfortunate for Kevin. Its a hard league to learn in. The Big East eats the young."
Cronin's starting line-up features three seniors and two juniors who scored a combined 51 points against the Pirates. Kilpatrick led all scorers in the game with 21 points.
Seton Hall got 16 points each from Edwin and sophomore Brandon Mobley, but the rest of the team struggled from the floor.
"As a team, we need to all be on the same page," Oliver said. "That is something that will happen when people do kick aside egos and kick aside their own things. Like I said, when things are going bad, everything is wrong. Some guys can't handle losing, there are some guys that need to accept that we have to do things better, different, and come together as a team."