INTRODUCCIÓN: Uno de los grandes desafíos de un entrenador es de identificar a los momentos que requieren que un equipo “pisa al acelerador” o permitir un cierto relajamiento. Nadie es capaz de funcionar en rendimiento pleno durante una temporada completa de Basket a nivel universitario en USA; pretemporada, torneos especiales, partidos con equipos de fuera de la Conferencia, partidos Big East, Torneo Big East en Madison Square Garden previa Torneo NCAA, “Big Dance” del NCAA. En total,30-40 partidos de alto nivel. Es muy difícil que un equipo gane a todos sus partidos y, en el caso de los mejores, como Xavier, lo prioritario es de llegar a los finales del NCAA en una situación de pleno rendimiento. Xavier, perdió su penúltimo partido de la temporada y, en gran medida, la causa es evidente…..un cierto relajamiento después de una temporada dura, vencer a Villanova (el equipo Nº 1) en el partido anterior, el Torneo Big East y la NCAA a la vuelta de la esquina. Ningún entrenador desea perder un partido, pero la perfección ni existe ni puede existir.
There was no coming back from a 19-point halftime deficit, not for a No. 5 Xavier team stymied by hungry Seton Hall.
The Pirates showed just how determined they were to claim their first NCAA tournament bid since 2006 in Sunday’s 90-81 upset of the Musketeers at the sold-out Prudential Center.
Kevin Willard’s team (21-7, 11-5 Big East) dominated Xavier (25-4, 13-4) just four days after the Musketeers downed No. 1 Villanova at Cintas Center. A letdown after such an emotional win was exacerbated by the Pirates’ smothering first-half attack.
Coach Chris Mack thought Xavier unraveled in the last eight minutes before halftime.
“We were down four or five points. We missed a couple of free throws that could have made it a one-possession game,” Mack said.
Xavier Musketeers guard Myles Davis (15) looks to pass while defended by Seton Hall Pirates guard Khadeen Carrington (0) during the first half at Prudential Center. Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
"Our inability to keep them off the glass, our inability to keep them out of transition – both with our mistakes, we turned the ball over, and then just their ability to push it with their three perimeter players, four perimeter players that are as good as any four in our league when it comes to playing downhill. That, to me, was the game.”
Seton Hall, considered by Bracketology experts to be among five Big East teams poised to receive NCAA tournament bids, delivered a message to the Selection Committee with its eighth win in nine outings. It remained undefeated against the Musketeers (3-0) at the Prudential Center since XU joined the Big East.
Xavier appeared to have a shot at a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed until the loss. One byproduct of the game was clear: XU secured the No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament and will face the No. 10 or 7 seed, March 10 at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.
Chris Mack discusses No. 5 Xavier's 90-81 loss Sunday at Seton Hall. Videolicious
“You want to win but Seton Hall is a very good team so the credit goes to them,” senior forward James Farr said. “They’ve got some very good guys over there. We didn’t do our part tonight. It was visible.”
Mack harbored concerns heading into the Seton Hall game as a result of the high-octane victory over No. 1, but he thought the Musketeers had sharp practices Friday and Saturday. Even Seton Hall’s 9-0 start wasn’t so bothersome after Xavier rallied to make it a three-point affair by the first media timeout.
Despite fumbling with careless passes and struggling in transition, Xavier inched within two with 11:49 left in the frame. A deflection on an inbound pass led to a Farr steal and Larry Austin Jr. found an open path to the rim for a lay-up.
Xavier drew no closer. The Pirates stretched a five-point lead to 19, a feat that featured some of the Musketeers’ 17 missed first-half lay-ups.
“We left so many points right there at the basket, either through transition lay-up opportunities that we missed, offensive rebound lay-ups that we missed, post-ups right around the basket that we missed (or) drives to the basket in the half-court,” Mack said.
“When you miss those, it’s deflating and our response wasn’t good enough. Our response for about five, six, seven minutes I think was feeling sorry for ourselves. That’s when you get your head handed to you, which we did in those eight minutes.”
Rebounding was another issue. The Musketeers’ league-leading margin (plus-8.2) vanished against a Pirates team that claimed a 28-18 edge on the glass heading into halftime. Seton Hall finished with a 44-39 margin.
Although Xavier had 20 offensive boards, the Pirates had 16 – and those 16 rebounds led to 18 second-chance points.
“I have a theory if you can offensive rebound, it’s your best transition defense because obviously it stops them from getting out and going. And it kind of holds them back a little bit. And against a 1-3-1 zone, I knew we’d struggle a little bit because we don’t shoot a whole lot of threes,” Willard said.
“But the most important thing was the offensive rebounds. I don’t think it really wore out Farr or (Jalen) Reynolds but it kept them from getting out in transition and getting easy buckets. On the road if you have to grind it out in the half-court, it’s tough.”
Xavier shot 50 percent after halftime but trailed by as many as 20 points with 10:10 remaining. Seton Hall avenged its 84-76 loss to Xavier at Cintas Center Jan. 23 behind Desi Rodriguez’s career-high 27 points and career-best 12 rebounds.
Isaiah Whitehead (22 points) and Angel Delgado (17 points, six boards) padded the Pirates’ highest-scoring game of the season.
Farr finished with a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds for Xavier. Bluiett scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half and Myles Davis added 15 points.
Xavier returns to action Saturday at Cintas Center in a home finale against Creighton