Seton Hall cannot rest on their win over UConn

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Andre Drummond didn’t know who Herb Pope was prior to No. 8 UConn’s trip to Seton Hall, but the name he most likely learned during the Pirate’s 75-63 win on Tuesday was that of Jordan Theodore.

The Pirate point guard was sensational as Seton Hall won their first game against UConn in 3,958 days, finishing with 19 points, 11 assists, three steals and a number of big buckets in the second half to prevent the Huskies from building any kind of momentum.

The statement “big buckets” in the second half is kind of ironic, I know, as the Pirates flat out drilled UConn on this night. Think about this: UConn was hot early, hitting three threes in the first four minutes of the game as they jumped out to a 11-2 lead. Over the next 16 minutes? Seton Hall outscored the Huskies 31-11, which included a 16-3 run to close the first half. UConn was able to trim a 35-22 halftime deficit to 10, but they never made things interesting after the break.

The one, very basic, question that we are now forced to ask: is this Seton Hall team is ‘for real’?

Personally, I hate asking whether a team is ‘for real’, if for no other reason that the term is incredibly vague and has different connotations for different teams. After Indiana knocked off Ohio State on New Year’s Eve, folks were asking whether or not Indiana was ‘for real’. Not even the most delusional Seton Hall fan would dare think that the Pirates are currently on the same level as the Hoosiers.

What we can say is this: Seton Hall has put themselves into incredible position to make a run at an at-large bid. Why? Because this win over the Huskies is far from the only impressive thing they have done this season. Just five days ago, the Pirates knocked off a better-than-we-thought West Virginia team by 19 points in the Prudential Center. They also own a win at Dayton, victories over Wake Forest and Auburn and knocked off both St. Joseph’s and VCU in Charleston.

On Tuesday afternoon, Andy Glockner’s bubble watch was released at SI.com, and he said that Seton Hall would “obviously would be in today” while emphasizing that we needed to have “some continued restraint given the lack of a true marquee win.” I think a dominating victory over a top ten team would qualify as a marquee victory.

Seton Hall’s next five games are fairly unimpressive as well, as they host DePaul and Notre Dame while traveling to Providence, South Florida and Villanova. Assuming they go 4-1 in that stretch, Seton Hall will head into the most important stretch of their season — home for Louisville, at Marquette, at UConn in the span of eight days — with a record of 17-3 overall and 6-2 in the Big East.

The Pirates are going to be garnering plenty of attention over the next month.

But is that attention warranted?

Is Seton Hall the team that has blown out West Virginia and UConn at home, or are they the group that was completely and thoroughly abused at Syracuse six days ago? Don’t forget about that performance, Seton Hall fans. You lost 75-49 to a team that didn’t get a single point out of their leading scorer.

The answer, frankly, lies somewhere in the middle — Kevin Willard’s team is not as bad as they played against Syracuse and they aren’t as good as they looked on Tuesday night against UConn. I know that’s a cop out, but its true. You cannot simply overlook a no-show performance and write it off as a “one of those nights”. What happens if Seton Hall has “one of those nights” against Providence on Saturday? Or in the first round of the Big East Tournament?

And, frankly, what’s to stop us from saying UConn lost tonight because they had “one of those nights”? Outside of Jeremy Lamb, only two players from UConn came to play Tuesday — Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander — and they aren’t exactly who we talk about when we say UConn has a roster stocked with potential NBA draft picks.

Jordan Theodore (who was once considered a better prospect than his AAU teammate Kemba Walker) and Herb Pope (who was once thought to be one of the best big man recruits in the country) are both showing why they had the hype they did at the amateur level. Fuquan Edwin is a much-improved offensive weapon and a playmaker on the defensive end. Patrick Auda and Aaron Cosby have been reliable role players. Brandon Mobley showed why had some hype when he joined the Seton Hall team five games ago.

No one is questioning whether or not the Pirates are a good basketball team this season.

But there is no need to place unwarranted expectations on this group. They are winning because they are playing every game like their season depends on it. Making this group think they are good enough to win just by showing up — kind of like what UConn did tonight — will result in more tallies showing up in the loss column.

If beating UConn at home ends up being the highlight of their season, than this won’t have been a very productive year for the Pirates.

What We Learned

Seton Hall:

– This isn’t exactly a secret, as he is currently leading the country in steals, but you cannot be lazy with the ball around Fuquan Edwin. He notched two more steals against the Huskies. That said, Edwin’s production was more than just his defense on this night. He finished with a double-double (12 points, 11 boards), scored in transition and flourished in the role of the glue-guy. Edwin is to Seton Hall as Pepco is to BIAH HQ: he’s the one that brings the energy, and tonight you saw why.

– Herb Pope is not the best big man in the Big East. He’s good — you have to be good when you are still averaging a double-double two months into the season — but his physical limitations get exposed when he plays against bigger, more athletic front lines. Pope is a combined 9-29 in the two games against UConn and Syracuse. That said, he’s a physical presence in the paint and a guy that can get rebounds and score on putbacks. Most importantly, however, Pope didn’t quit tonight despite a slow start to the game. We couldn’t say as much against Syracuse.

– Now do you see why Seton Hall fans were excited about Brandon Mobley? The freshman who is five games into his career after battling a shoulder injury had eight points and seven boards in the first half to help lead Seton Hall back.

– Who saw Peter Dill at the end of the Seton Hall bench?

UConn:

– UConn isn’t going to miss Kemba Walker’s ability as a basketball player nearly as much as they are going to miss his ability to be a leader. UConn has no emotional spark. They have no vocal presence on the floor. They have no one that is willing to say “enough of this BS, y’all gonna play tonight?” There isn’t a presence in their huddle holding them accountable for mistakes and lazy play. And there isn’t anyone with that killer instinct capable of hitting the step-on-your-throat shots down the stretch.

– That issue is only exacerbated without Jim Calhoun’s presence on the bench.

– UConn’s body language was horrible in this game. After Theodore hit a pair of threes midway through the second half to push the lead to 15, UConn looked like they had given up. That’s not something you want to see out of a team that is expected to compete for the Big East title and contend for a Final Four.

– I’ll make this prediction: this is the worst game that we will see UConn play all season long. Shabazz Napier was 2-12 from the field. Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi combined for six points and seven boards. You’d be quickly forgiven if you didn’t realize Deandre Daniels and Roscoe Smith played. Much of that can be credited to the play of Seton Hall, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was an all-around atrocious performance from the Huskies.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Top-ranked Houston grinds out 53-48 win over Saint Mary’s

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
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FORT WORTH, Texas – J’Wan Roberts scored 15 points, Marcus Sasser added 13 and top-ranked Houston held on to beat Saint Mary’s 53-48 on Saturday night.

The Cougars (8-0) won twice in their first week as the No. 1 team since the final poll of the 1982-83 regular season, when Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon led high-flying Phi Slama Jama.

Logan Johnson scored 17 points and Aidan Mahaney had 14 for the Gaels (6-3), who lost their third in a row following a 6-0 start.

Houston was the favorite to win it all in the second of three consecutive trips to the Final Four nearly 40 years ago, but lost to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in one of the iconic championship games.

Coach Kelvin Sampson’s first top-ranked team is coming off trips to the Final Four and Elite Eight the past two seasons.

For the third straight year, the postseason path will start at Dickie’s Arena, where Sampson likes to bring his team during the regular season as prep for the American Athletic Conference tourney.

This victory in the Battleground 2k22 series improved the Cougars to 9-0 in the arena near downtown Fort Worth, where they have won AAC tournament titles each of the past two years.

Saint Mary’s whittled a 12-point deficit to a single possession when Mahaney hit a 3, and he made it a three-point game again at 46-43 with another from long range.

Roberts answered by backing down for a short jump hook before Sasser converted a three-point play to put the Cougars up 51-43.

Houston broke a 17-all tie with a 14-3 run to finish the first half, with Saint Mary’s going 1 of 11 from the field in that stretch against the vaunted Cougars defense. Both teams shot 37%.

BIG PICTURE

Saint Mary’s: Facing the No. 1 team isn’t foreign to the Gaels, who play in the West Coast Conference with Gonzaga. St. Mary’s is 2-7 against the Zags when they have the top ranking, with one of the victories coming last season.

Houston: The Cougars had no trouble in their debut with the No. 1 ranking, blowing out Norfolk State 100-52 at home Tuesday. A disciplined and tournament-tested opponent for the second game was just the threat Sampson’s club figured it could be.

UP NEXT

Saint Mary’s: Missouri State at home Wednesday.

Houston: North Florida at home Tuesday.

Clowney, No. 11 Alabama recover to beat South Dakota St

Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Freshman Noah Clowney’s breakout game – 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a steal – helped No. 11 Alabama recover from blowing a 20-point lead and beat South Dakota State 78-65 on Saturday night.

Clowney shot 8 of 17, including 5 of 12 on 3s, in his highest-scoring game of the season.

“We’ve encouraged him to shoot it, I’m glad he did,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “His senior year of high school, he started out pretty poorly from 3 then shot it 40% after that, so I kind of referenced that.”

Alabama (7-1) led 37-17 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half. South Dakota State (3-6) rallied to go ahead 51-50 on Alex Arians’ 3-pointer with 11 1/2 minutes remaining.

Nimari Burnett’s foul shot a minute later put the Crimson Tide ahead for good at 54-53. Alabama used a 9-0 run to pull away.

Mark Sears scored 19 points and Brandon Miller had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Crimson Tide

Alabama made 14 of its first 26 shots to build a big lead before it slipped away.

“I’m not going to call them mature, we still have some room to grow,” Oats said. “Our guys have to understand, no matter who we’re playing, even if their record isn’t great, they’re Division I basketball players, they’re good teams. Last year, we had issues with this going down the road.”

Charlie Easley and Arians each scored 17 points for the Jackrabbits. Zeke Mayo added 12 points and Matt Dentlinger contributed nine rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Sears continues to be a force at home for Alabama. In Alabama’s last three home games – wins over Liberty, Jacksonville State and South Dakota State – he has scored 22, 18 and 19 points, making at least three 3-pointers in all three games. Alabama’s next home game comes against a Memphis team that already has two wins over SEC competition.

SECOND HALF SPRING

South Dakota State coach Eric Henderson noticed that in Alabama’s first two home games, Longwood and Liberty both trailed by fewer than 10 points at halftime before losing by 21 and 36 points, respectively. He viewed the first five minutes of the second half as critical in both instances, seeing an Alabama team using the home environment to its advantage.

Henderson stressed to his team that it had to win those five minutes to have a chance. Down 42-35 at the break, it did, and ultimately took the lead.

“They really increase the pressure, they try to play a little faster, they get downhill and they really spray it,” Henderson said. “I thought we were getting some 50-50 balls, I thought we were playing with some confidence. There’s been a lot of schools to come in here and have a good first half and it ends up being a 30- or 40-point game.”

UP NEXT

South Dakota State stays on the road to face Montana on Tuesday.

Alabama takes a weeklong break before its second game against the current No. 1 team in the nation, this time a road game against Houston on Saturday. The Crimson Tide beat former No. 1 North Carolina in its first shot at the top-ranked team, winning 103-101 in four overtimes on Nov. 27.

Rutgers beats No. 10 Indiana for sixth straight time, 63-48

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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PISCATAWAY, N.J. – With the clock winding down in the final minutes, Rutgers fans didn’t hesitate in letting No. 10 Indiana how they felt about the Hoosiers’ rating.

Chants of “Who’s Your Daddy” and “Overrated” were shouted with glee at the Indiana bench after the team was knocked from the unbeaten ranks.

Make no mistake, Rutgers (6-2, 1-0 Big Ten) owns Indiana (7-1, 0-1) on the basketball floor these days.

Freshman guard Derek Simpson scored 10 straight points in a game-deciding run and Rutgers beat Indiana for the sixth time in a row and ninth time in 10 meetings, 63-48 on Saturday.

“As far as Indiana goes, I feel we just know the focus of this team,” said Rutgers senior Caleb McConnell, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds. “It gives us an advantage because we had beaten them five times in a row. We went in trying to execute our game plan and we did it again.”

Simpson scored all 14 of his points in the second half as Rutgers made coach Mike Woodson’s first visit to “The Banks” unpleasant.

“We got to make shots from the perimeter,” said Woodson, whose team shot 30.4% from the field, including 6 of 21 from long range. “But we just got out-toughed tonight. I thought, I mean, from the beginning to the end, I mean, we couldn’t rebound the basketball with him. I thought that was the difference in the ballgame and that was the cushion that they needed.”

Miller Kopp scored a season-high 21 points for Indiana . Star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who faced a packed in defense, was held to 13 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late.

Jackson-Davis said Indiana just didn’t play well.

“I don’t necessarily say that it’s a bad matchup for us because I think defensively we’re still good,” he said. “But at the same time, our offense just wasn’t clicking tonight.”

The win was coach Steve Pikiell’s 14th over a ranked team since taking over a struggling Rutgers’ program in 2016-17. As usual, defense was at the center of its win.

The Hoosiers’ point total was a season low. They were averaging 87.1 points and were coming off a win over North Carolina.

Indiana played poorly in the first half in falling behind 31-24. The Hoosiers opened the final 20 minutes with a 13-4 spurt, taking two-point leads on baskets by Xavier Johnson and Kopp.

McConnell hit a 3-pointer to put Rutgers ahead for good and then Simpson took over, hitting a layup, a jumper, a 3-pointer and a big scoop shot for a 47-37 lead. His final point in the run came when Johnson hit him in the face in the offensive zone and a flagrant foul was eventually called. He made 1 of 2 free throws.

“I still have have much more to do and I am going to keep working and we’re going to keep working as a team,” Simpson said. “It was a fun game, and it really got loud. My ears are still ringing right now.”

MULCAHY RETURNS

Rutgers senior starting guard Paul Mulcahy returned to the lineup after missing four games with a shoulder injury. He came off the bench early in the first half and played almost 24 minutes, scoring six points and handing out four assists.

MISSING

Indiana starting guard Jalen Hood-Schifino did not play because of a back problem. He was averaging 8.7 points. Starting forward Race Thompson, who was averaging 7.3 points, was scoreless on 0 for 4 shooting.

BIG PICTURE

Indiana: This was poor performance by the Hoosiers. They are bound to take a tumble.

Rutgers: This was a big win for Rutgers, which was coming off a road loss at Miami. They are 6-0 at home.

UP NEXT

Indiana: Conference home opener against Nebraska on Wednesday.

Rutgers: At No. 25 Ohio State on Thursday.

Flagler, No. 6 Baylor rally late, top No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63

Baylor vs. Gonzaga
USA Today
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In a rematch of the 2021 national championship game, Adam Flagler hit a pair of 3s as No. 6 Baylor scored the final eight points to rally past No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63 Friday night.

Gonzaga’s Rasir Bolton missed a wild, driving layup try at the buzzer.

Two seasons ago, Baylor beat the then-undefeated Zags 86-70 to win its first title. This time, the Bears didn’t take the lead for good until Jalen Bridges made two free throws with 16 seconds left.

“Adam is a great leader, but no one knew he wasn’t feeling well today,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “To be honest, some players wouldn’t have played. He played through the pain and left it all out on the court. As a coach, I appreciate that.”

The Bears (6-2) trailed 63-56 before Flagler hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 left. Flagler’s 3 with just over a minute to play cut Baylor’s deficit to 63-62.

After a Gonzaga shot clock violation, Flagler’s 3-point attempt for the lead was off the mark, but Bridges was fouled by Drew Timme on the rebound attempt. Bridges hit two foul shots to put Baylor ahead.

The Zags (5-3) had a final chance when Bolton caught an inbounds pass near his own foul line with 4.6 seconds remaining. He drove the lane, but his off-balance shot went high off the glass and missed as the buzzer sounded.

“We took two balls down hill and tried to make plays at the rim. At that point in the game, those are tough,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “It’s very disappointing. They made plays, man.”

Freshman Keyonte George had 18 points and seven rebounds for Baylor. Flagler had 11 points and Langston Love added 10.

“I trust my work. I was able to knock them down,” George said. “My teammates believe in me each and every day. They give me that confidence in a big game to make big shots like that.”

Malchi Smith scored 16 points for Gonzaga. Anton Watson added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Timme had nine points.

Baylor led by as many as 12 in the first half before Gonzaga closed to five at the break.

Watson’s basket put Gonzaga ahead 41-40. From there, the teams swapped leads over the next 13 minutes as the second half featured two ties and 14 lead changes.

A thunderous dunk from Smith gave Gonzaga its seven-point lead with under two minutes to go.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The win was a big rebound for Baylor after its 26-point loss to Marquette earlier in the week. The loss was the Bears’ most lopsided since they fell to Kansas 82-56 in 2007

Gonzaga: After opening the season ranked No. 2 in the AP preseason poll, the Zags have now lost two of three.

STAR WATCH

Timme began the night leading the Bulldogs in scoring at 20 points per game. He was hampered by foul trouble against Baylor and got his first field goal with six minutes remaining. He fouled out with 16 seconds to play.

REMATCH PLAYERS

Four players on the floor Friday night had significant minutes in the championship game two years ago including Flagler, Timme and Watson, along with Baylor’s Flo Thamba.

UP NEXT

Baylor: The Bears return home to host Tarleton on Tuesday before playing Washington State on Sunday in Dallas for the Pac 12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs return to Spokane for three straight beginning Monday when they face Kent State for the first time in school history.

Carr scores 19, No. 2 Texas beats No. 7 Creighton 72-67

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
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AUSTIN, Texas – Texas had pressured Creighton’s shooters into a miserable night, only to watch a late flurry of 3-pointers start swishing.

An 11-point Longhorns lead was down to three.

That hardly rattled Marcus Carr and the second-ranked Longhorns, who stepped up with big late shots of their own and steady free-throw shooting to secure another impressive early-season victory, 72-67 over the seventh-ranked Bluejays on Thursday night.

Carr scored 19 points and made two free throws with 10 seconds left as Texas held off Creighton’s furious late-game rally.

Creighton struggled through a wretched 3-point shooting night, but pulled within 62-59 thanks in part to five points in a row by Baylor Scheierman. Carr’s baseline jumper and an easy layup by Tyrese Hunter when Creighton lost him on an inbound pass with 46 seconds left stretched the Longhorns’ lead again.

That didn’t quite close the door on Creighton, which got two more 3-pointers from Scheierman, who had missed his first nine attempts. That forced Texas to finish it from the free-throw line behind Carr and Brock Cunningham. Cunningham’s two free throws with 4 seconds left were his only points of the game.

“There’s going to be a bunch of times one of us has to go down there and knock down a bunch of free throws,” Carr said. “We talk about it all the time.”

The matchup was part of the Big 12-Big East Battle and Texas earned its second win over a top-10 opponent in its new arena. The Longhorns (6-0) beat then-No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 16 and have their highest ranking since they were No. 1 during the 2009-2010 season.

“I don’t think we’ve proven anything,” Texas coach Chris Beard said. “We’re just a team that’s trying to get better.”

Hunter scored 15 points for Texas.

Ryan Kalkbrenner had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Creighton (6-2), and Ryan Nembhard scored 17 points. The Bluejays were 4 of 27 on 3-pointers.

Scheierman, a 44% shooter from beyond the arc this season, made three 3s in a row late. His off-balance shot from the right corner over a defender pulled the Bluejays within 68-65 with 11.4 seconds left.

Scheierman finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“The reality is you are gonna have nights,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It just happens. We don’t ever want him to stop shooting.”

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Kalkbrenner was all but unstoppable on a 9-of-10 shooting night for the Bluejays, who kept launching from long range instead of looking for their 7-foot-1 center.

Texas: The Longhorns couldn’t force their usual numbers of turnovers and fast-break points, but were exceptionally clean with the ball on offense. Texas had just three turnovers that Creighton turned into three points.

FORMER TEAMMATES

Texas senior forward Christian Bishop played three seasons at Creighton before transferring prior to last season. He finished with six points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.

“We understood what this game was, not just for our team but for Christian,” Carr said.

TIRED TEAM

McDermott suggested his team maybe just wore out. The Bluejays went 2-1 in the Maui Invitational last week and then played their first game of the season on an opponent’s home court.

“Three games in three days against ranked teams (in Hawaii) and then to come in here,” McDermott said. “That’s a lot to ask of my team.”

UP NEXT

Creighton hosts in-state rival Nebraska on Sunday.

Texas plays No. 16 Illinois in New York City on Dec. 6 in the Jimmy V Classic.