February 26, 2015

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) A little more than a month ago, Seton Hall was ranked and seemingly headed to its first NCAA tournament berth since 2006.

Coach Kevin Willard's squad had a win over highly ranked Villanova, a 15-6 record and a team that was relying on only one senior, forward Brandon Mobley.

The Hall was the best team in the New York City metropolitan area.

Not anymore. The Pirates have hit hard times, and not only on the court, where they have lost six straight games and nine of 11.

Heading into Saturday's game against Creighton (13-15) at Prudential Center, Seton Hall is 15-12. Its only way of getting to the NCAA tournament will be win the Big East Conference tournament next month and unless they win a couple more games, it might not make the NIT.

There are other issues. Sophomore starting guard Jaren Sina left the team unexpectedly after a loss to Georgetown on Feb. 10.

Less than a week later, leading scorer Sterling Gibbs was suspended for two games for throwing a forearm to the face Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono. The junior guard will miss Saturday's game.

''We have a good mindset right now,'' Willard said Thursday during a news conference. ''We are practicing well and working hard. We haven't been able to finish off games.''

A big part of the problem has been the Pirates' defense. They are giving up an average of 75.3 points in the losing streak. In the first 16 games of the season, only two opponents scored that many points.

Seton Hall also has had some adjustment issues. It lost talent freshman guard Isaiah Whitehead in late December to a foot injury that caused him to miss nine games. He has averaged better than 14 points since returning in late January but he has also shot 33 percent.

Willard said that team did a good job of accepting roles at the beginning of the season and that helped it getting off to a good start. Those roles changed after Whitehead was hurt and players are having a tough time adapting since he has returned, Willard said.

The one constant for the Pirates has been freshman center Angel Delgado. He has averaged 9.2 points and 9.9 rebounds, while shooting nearly 57 percent. He also leads the team with 34 blocks.

''As young as we are, we still have so much more room for improvement,'' Willard said. ''What we have been talking about all season is to continue to grow and try to get better. This team has done that, but we've gone through a very tough stretch. That's sometimes happens with young teams.''

After Creighton, Seton Hall will have a home game against No. 25 Providence (19-9) on Wednesday and a regular-season finale against Georgetown (18-8) a week from Saturday.

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