Likely missing key piece, Seton Hall faces slumping DePaul
Likely missing key piece, Seton Hall faces slumping DePaul originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Seton Hall slipped off the NCAA Tournament bubble by losing five of its last seven games in the regular season. To make the dance, the seventh-seeded Pirates will need to win the Big East tournament, beginning Wednesday when they face 10th-seeded DePaul in New York.
Seton Hall (17-14, 10-10 Big East) is unlikely to have starting point guard Kadary Richmond back in time this week. Richmond injured his back during a loss Feb. 18 and has not yet returned to practice.
Richmond is a ball-dominant guard who does some of everything for the Pirates. He averaged 10.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.0 steals in 27 games.
The Pirates struggled to beat the conference's best teams all year long, but even without Richmond, something finally clicked on Saturday in the regular-season finale. In an 82-58 road romp over No. 20 Providence, Dre Davis shot 9-of-10 for 24 points off the bench and Femi Odukale, as the lead ball-handler, amassed 19 points, eight boards, five assists and four steals.
"It's tough asking (Odukale), Al (Dawes) and Jamir (Harris) to come and do what Kadary has done for us the whole year," coach Shaheen Holloway said after a close loss to Villanova Feb. 28. "He had the ball in his hands 90 percent of the time, he kind of led us in every category at one time -- scoring, rebounding, assists, steals -- and now you get a week to try to prepare without him and ask other guys to step up."
DePaul (9-22, 3-17) ended the regular season on a 12-game losing streak. The Blue Demons trailed visiting Creighton by as many as 18 in their season finale Saturday, but they pushed back in the second half and got within nine with 1:19 to play before losing 84-70.
Still, it was a lost season devastated by injuries early on to veteran players like Nick Ongenda, Caleb Murphy, Jalen Terry and Yor Anei. Ongenda has averaged 11.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in six games since missing the first 25 with a wrist injury.
DePaul lost 71-67 to Seton Hall at home Jan. 14 and 69-64 at the Pirates Feb. 5.
"We've got to play together for 40 minutes and score the basketball," coach Tony Stubblefield said, per the DePaulia. "Seton Hall is a very good team defensively. They have good athletes and guys that can guard multiple positions."