SAN DIEGO — The whistle sounded and Jared Rhoden couldn’t believe it. Neither was Kevin Willard, who stood there motionless on the sideline.
A questionable fifth foul, an offensive foul on the Seton Hall star, was called. Rhoden’s night – and probably his career – was over. The Pirates season was also at this point, for all intents and purposes.
It was an apt summary of the evening for Seton Hall: Everything that could go wrong happened. Rhoden was tormented by loathsome troubles. The eighth-seeded Pirates were pushed to both ends of the floor, embarrassed by No. 9 TCU, 69-42, in a South Region NCAA Tournament first-round game that could end up being the last game of the Willard era in the south. Orange.
Amid rumors that Willard will leave Seton Hall to fill the vacancy at Maryland, his team did not show up. He struggled powerfully offensively and put up no resistance on the defensive side. He trailed by 24 points midway through the second half in by far the worst Seton Hall in the NCAA Tournament with Willard as coach. The Pirates made TCU look like a national championship contender, falling 1-5 in the tournament under Willard.
It was a layup line for TCU, who owned the paint, edging out Seton Hall there, 40-14. The Pirates had no answer for TCU star Mike Miles, who had 21 points, or the Horned Frogs pick-and-roll that led to frequently open shots near the basket. In what could be his last game at Seton Hall, Rhoden scored just five points on 2-of-7 shooting in 17 foul minutes. Jamir Harris and Myles Cale each had 11 for Seton Hall, who was held to 29% shooting from the field and crushed on the glass, 39-26.
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Seton Hall played one of his worst – if not his worst – attacking halves of the season in the first 20 minutes. He missed 23 of his first 28 shots and, at one point, had as many turnovers (five) as field goals (five). He finished the half with 21 points, the school-fewest in 30 NCAA Tournament games.
Rhoden missed five of his shots and was in big trouble. As a team, Seton Hall settled in, taking long contested jump shots and dodging the physical TCU inside. At the other end of the field, the school of the Big 12 imposed their will by making their way through the paint and to the free throw line. The Horned Frogs led by no less than 13, on the strength of a 16-5 run, and looked set to blow the game away. The 3 consecutive points at the end of the half by Cale and Harris made it a manageable deficit of nine points at the break.
The Pirates were lucky to be this close, having shot 27% from the field, attempted just two free throws, committed nine turnovers and were outplayed in the paint, 14-6.
It didn’t improve after the break. Willard pitched Alexis Yetna and Tyrese Samuel against Tray Jackson and Ike Obiagu, but it didn’t matter. Damion Baugh hit a wide-open 3-pointer for TCU, and although Miles fouled his third and went to the bench, the lead quickly peaked at 16. And when Emanuel Miller stripped Kadary Richmond and scored from the other end, it was 45-25 with 14:12 remaining.
It kind of got worse for Seton Hall. It was a night the entire program would love to forget, and it could end as the end of Kevin Willard’s mostly successful 12-year stint at the Big East School.
New York Post