Well, I returned to the student section after a long absence (I called the Cornell game on WSOU), and I was impressed by the view and location (not to mention the ultra- comfy black seats), but despite meeting the creators of the Facebook group "Hall's Hecklers," I was disappointed with the level of enthusiasm from my brethren. Now, it was a 20- point win, so after a while, you expect for the verve to die down a bit, but still- there was no energy in the arena basically from the get-go, and that was disappointing considering how many students made it a point to get there early to get good seats.
But what I was impressed with was the basketball game. Here are my 5 Thoughts from the Rock:
- Defensive Intensity
It was great the entire game save one or two missed rotations from Ferrakohn Hall. Everyone was locked in and determined to not let the Peacocks dictate tempo (as they did last year), and it paid off. Whether it was Man-to-Man or 2-3 zone or matchup zone, the Pirates played it well. They held the Peacocks to 34 percent shooting, including a combined 2-14 from the field from Nick Leon and Wesley Jenkins. That D was spearheaded by Jordan Theodore and Keon Lawrence (more on them in a bit), both of whom showed leadership on Willard's End (I'm just going to start calling the defensive side of the floor that and see if it catches on).
- Taking Care of the Rock
Double meaning to this one- the Hall remained unbeaten at the Prudential Center this year, and Seton Hall did a phenomenal job of not turning the ball over. The Pirates committed just 5 turnovers while forcing 16, which is really, really great. Keon Lawrence in particular had 5 assists and ZERO turnovers. It's a big step forward for him, as he rarely looked to score tonight. That's a good thing. Jordan Theodore committed ONE turnover against 3 assists. When your primary ball handlers commit one combined turnover in 40 minutes, you're in good shape. Not to mention the fact that no Pirate committed more than one. Terrific game from that standpoint.
Theodore led the Pirates with 11PTS, and six Pirates scored 7PTS+. This produced some good balanced stat lines: Jamel Jackson had 9PTS including 3-of-8 from deep, Fuquan Edwin had 9PTS/3REB/STL, Eniel Polynice had 7PTS/4REB/4AST, Herb Pope had 8PTS/8REB, and Jeff Robinson had 10PTS/7REB. Robinson would have had more had he not committed two quick dumb fouls among his 4 total.
Everyone contributed to this game. Seton Hall got 32 points from their bench tonight, which is not typical of this team if you look back into the Gonzo era where everything and everything revolved around Hazell. It made it all the more refreshing to see.
- Czech-mark for Auda
Auda didn't have an eye-popping line (3PTS/5REB/BLK), but a few of his rebounds were in traffic as was the block, and he positioned himself for rebounds well. Will he do it against, say Fab Melo of Syracuse, or Antonio Pena of Villanova? That's yet to be seen. But what is clear is that he has a high basketball IQ and is every bit of 6'9". He is a mature freshman in this regard, and it will only get better with time and experience for him.
- If at first you don't succeed...
... swing the ball until you do. Tonight in particular was great because the team was clearly wanting to get the ball inside, but did not force many shots. Instead, they worked the ball into good spots for good shots. Last year's team would have been stuck when presented with the persistent 2-3 zone. This team wasn't. Yes, it's the Saint Peter's 2-3 and not the Syracuse 2-3, but this will undoubtedly keep up when Hazell, the guy who can bust a zone wide open, gets back on the court. The difference is that I don't think they be totally reliant on Hazell when presented with a zone. There will be other options if Hazell happens to have an off- night.