Trailing 26-14 with 10 minutes left in the first half, the Pirates had 30 minutes to get it together to prevent their fifth consecutive loss and a nearly insurmountable 0-4 Big East start. They responded. With the thought of their season quickly slipping away the Pirates turned up their intensity on both sides of the floor, finishing the final 10 minutes of the half on a 25-2 run, taking a 39-30 lead into intermission.
Seton Hall began the second half right where they left off, building a quick 14 point lead courtesy of Jeremy Hazell's "NBA Jam on fire," showing. Hazell recorded 15 of the Pirates 19 points through the first 10 minutes of the second period. Hazell had the killer instinct in his game that had been missing among the Pirates thus far this season, his play rubbing off on his teammates. After Hazell put his squad up 12 with 3:52 to play, Cincinnati went on a furious 7-0 run to pull within 5 with 2 minutes to play.
Let's look at what was mentioned in my "Pre-Game Notes" as a possible deciding factor:
Should this game go down to the wire, it may ultimately be decided by the team that has the hotter hand at the free throw line. Hopefully, Seton Hall will maintain the recent momentum they've gained, shooting 75% in the last two games against Virginia Tech and UConn.
As the Prudential Center reached for a collective bottle of Tums, Hazell answered by getting to the line and sinking both free throws. Following another Cincinnati 3PT bucket from a Bearcats team refusing to die, it was time for Hazell's teammates to take his lead and step to the plate. The ultimate test? Why, Herb Pope shooting free throws, of course. Pope would go to the line with a 4 point cushion and a minute remaining to shoot one-and-one. Clutch. Pope calmly sank both throws and from there, it was all Jeff Robinson closing the game out. In the final minute of the game, Robinson recorded 2 rebounds and went 5-of-6 from the line, sealing a close fought battle, which was won large in part by phenomenal free throw shooting.
SHU Athletics looks at the performances from Hazell and Pope:
The Pirates (10-5, 1-3) were keyed once again by junior Jeremy Hazell (Harlem, N.Y.), who poured in 33 points and added four steals.
Sophomore Herb Pope (Aliquippa, Pa.) was the only other SHU player to score in double-figures, netting 14 points and pulling down a game-high seven boards. Deonta Vaughn led the Bearcats (11-5, 2-2) with 20 points.
Tom Lucci of The Star-Ledger, recounts Hazell's reaction to the monster first half run:
Jeremy Hazell was too caught up in what was happening at the time to appreciate how big a run Seton Hall was on, but he remembers stealing peeks at the overhanging scoreboard in the Prudential Center and seeing the same thing for most of the final 11:13 of the first half: Cincinnati stuck on 26 points. That’s total the Bearcats had in building a 12-point lead in the opening 8:47 against the Pirates. And that’s when things changed dramatically in a game Seton Hall had to win, thanks to a dazzling 25-2 run that began with 13 unanswered points.
NBE Basketball Report looks at the swing of events in the first half, which led to a nine point Pirate lead at the break:
Cincinnati was the aggressor early on Deonta Vaughn scored 9 of his team’s first 17 points and the Bearcats would have as much as a ten-point lead. Seton Hall, despite going on a nearly a four-minute scoreless run, answered Cincinnati with a 13-0 run and took their first lead of the game with a made Jeremy Hazell free throw at the 5:53 mark, to make the game 27-26. Seton Hall then went on their own run, outscoring Cincinnati 12-4, which included a pretty looking alley-oop from Eugene Harvey to Jeremy Hazell, as the Pirates walked into the locker room up nine, 39-30, at halftime.
John Rowe, of NorthJersey.com, looks at the Pirates focus on defense which led to their offensive explosion, according to head coach Bobby Gonzalez:
They did so with pressure by Theodore and Eugene Harvey in the backcourt and even top scorer Jeremy Hazell, who won’t be a candidate for conference defensive player of the year, but got into the act by containing Bearcats freshman Lance Stephenson (15 points), the New York City high school legend.
"We got offense off our defense," said Gonzalez.
And from the usual source, Hazell. He was 10-of-22 from the field, including 5-of-10 on three-pointers, in scoring 33 points, his fifth 30-plus effort of the season.
"My team calls me the go-to-guy," Hazell said, "and I take pride in that."
Despite the game being called a 'must-win' by everyone holding onto hope of a possible NCAA tournament berth for the Pirates, Gonzo wasn't going to call it, 'life-or-death' situation according to, Brian Lewis of the NY Post:
Seton Hall had suffered through four straight losses, coming up just short in gut-wrenching defeats against powerful teams. But last night against Cincinnati, the Pirates finally figured out how to close a game and earned a much-needed, 83-76 bounce-back win at the Prudential Center. "You can't make everything life and death because you're going to die a lot of deaths. . . . but guys recognized the importance," said coach Bobby Gonzalez."
Body language said it all according to Mike Vorkunov of New Jersey News Room:
Herb Pope's body language said it all. The nervous glance at the scoreboard with 22.4 seconds remaining, as Seton Hall nursed an eight-point lead. The Jordanesque frozen shooting form. The raised arm, extended index finger and acknowledgement of the crowd as he ran into the tunnel after the final buzzer. If there was any doubt as to how the Pirates looked at last night's game, Pope said it all without saying a thing. The 83-76 victory over Cincinnati at the Prudential Center was a much needed catharsis. "I think it was a relief," said coach Bobby Gonzalez.
Vorkunov follows up with another piece on what we learned from the victory:
Free throw shooting: Here's an eye-popping number. Seton Hall shot 21-24 from the line and nailed several key free throws down the stretch to seal it. None bigger, as much symbolically as anything, Pope nailing both late in the second half with 1:02 remaining to extend the lead to 78-72 and quash the Bearcats' run. And then walking backwards, arm extended a la Michael Jordan.
Who had the bigger win Saturday night, the Jets over the Bengals or the Pirates over the Bearcats? Easy answer for Herb Pope:
"Us, us, us. The Jets won? If this [comment] gets out, 'Good job, Darrelle. Great game,'" Pope said after posting 14 points and 7 rebounds in Seton Hall's 83-76 victory over Cincinnati (11-5, 2-2 Big East) at the Prudential Center.
The Pirates are next in action Thursday night at Georgetown where the Hoyas are coming off a thrilling 19PT comeback victory against Connecticut.