No. 21 Seton Hall grabbed the attention of the college basketball world 10 days ago with a come-from-behind road upset of Michigan, which at the time was considered a top-five team in the country.
Since then, the Big East upstart has shown it is still a work in progress.
The Pirates returned home from an uneven showing at the Fort Myers (Fla.) Tip-Off and will continue their season Sunday against Bethune-Cookman in Newark, N.J.
Seton Hall (4-1) lost a tight 79-76 game against Ohio State in the semifinal at Fort Myers on Monday. The Pirates looked ready to knock off a second straight Big Ten opponent after stunning Michigan 67-65. But after a steal-and-score by Jamir Harris that tied the game at 76 late, Meechie Johnson made the game-winning 3-pointer for the Buckeyes in the final three seconds.
The Pirates beat Cal in the third-place game Wednesday, but not without some struggles. They lost an eight-point, first-half lead and eventually trailed the Golden Bears 44-38 with 9:17 to play after Cal rattled off a 15-2 run.
Hall came back to win 62-59 on the strength of its free-throw shooting.
"No matter what, you get out of here 1-1 and two months from now it's not going to matter what the score was," coach Kevin Willard said in a postgame radio interview.
That said, not much was working for Seton Hall, perhaps winded from Monday's battle. The Pirates shot 34 percent from the floor while allowing Cal to sink 44.9 percent of its shots, and they were outrebounded 36-30.
"We're offensively challenged right now," Willard said. "We're trying to make things happen, instead of letting things happen."
Jared Rhoden has returned to Seton Hall's starting lineup after missing the season opener with an ankle sprain and coming off the bench for Game 2. In four appearances, the preseason all-Big East first-team pick leads the Pirates in both scoring (18.5 points per game) and rebounding (6.8).
Myles Cale injured his groin during the Ohio State game and sat out the Cal tilt. His status for Sunday is unknown.
Bethune-Cookman (1-5) also had a busy week before Thanksgiving, playing three games in four days. First, the Wildcats wrapped up the Sunshine Slam in their hometown of Daytona Beach, Fla., by notching their first win of the season over Bryant and losing the next day to Air Force.
After a day's rest, Bethune-Cookman hosted Liberty on Tuesday and led the ASUN preseason favorite for much of the first half before falling 59-51.
"This is what this part of the season is about," Wildcats coach Reggie Theus said. "We have to continue to grow. If we can play tough like this and learn what we need to do for conference, then it's all worth it."
Joe French leads Bethune-Cookman with 14.2 points per game and has made 16 of 39 3-point attempts (41 percent).
Yielding just 59 points to Liberty marked the Wildcats' best defensive result of the season to date.
"I told our guys if they stay together and keep working on the defensive end," Theus said, "we can develop into a very good basketball team."
--Field Level Media