By Matt Ambrose,
Sports Business Writer
After ending the non-conference slate of games on a high note by beating in-state rivals Rutgers, the Pirates have hit a major bump in the road in the early stages on Big East Conference play. Since ending non-conference play on a six-game winning streak and finishing with a 10-2 record, the Pirates have gotten off to a 2-4 start in the Big East, good enough for 7th place in the conference entering the weekend.
The Pirates opened Big East play with a tough test on the road against tenth-ranked Creighton, where they were overwhelmed by the Blue Jays’ high-powered offense in an 89-75 defeat. The Pirates then returned home to the friendly confines of the Prudential Center for two games against Marquette and DePaul. The Pirates squeaked out a close 69-66 win over the Golden Eagles on New Year’s Day in a game that featured the sharpshooting of Marquette and sloppy basketball by the Pirates. The Hall would improve their effort significantly the following week against DePaul, routing the Blue Demons by a score of 87-56. Desi Rodriguez led all scorers with 25 points, and Angel Delgado had perhaps his best game as a Pirate with a 20 point, 12 rebound effort.
Things seemed to be looking up for the Pirates as they hit the road for a three game road trip, but instead, things have gone just the opposite.
First stop on the road trip was Milwaukee for the Pirates’ second and final meeting with the Marquette Golden Eagles. A very similar game to the first matchup found Marquette holding a seven point lead with just 46 seconds left. The Pirates mounted another miraculous comeback to force overtime, but came up short in the end in an 89-86 loss.
Second stop on the trip was Providence, Rhode Island for a matchup with the Providence Friars, a game many of the Pirate faithful thought would be an easy win. It wasn’t.
The Pirates fell behind by as many as 16 points in the first half, and though they tried to make a comeback in the second half, it proved to be too little too late as the Friars grabbed the 65-61 win. Desi Rodriguez scored 20 points trying to will the Pirates to a victory, but the Friars’ two headed monster of Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright combined for 42 of Providence’s 65 points in the win. After the game, head coach Kevin Willard called the loss “embarrassing.”
Expecting a rejuvenated effort last Monday night against No. 1 Villanova, the Pirates were overmatched by the defending national champions in a 76-46 loss. The Pirates could find no answers offensively and were overwhelmed by the Wildcats’ talent and depth. The loss extended the Pirates’ losing streak to three games.
The Pirates now return home with their season hanging in the balance and more tough games ahead. In order to salvage the season, this team must face the facts and come out ready each night. There are no nights off in the Big East.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 24th print edition.
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