-Herb Pope was freed in the final 20 minutes at Freedom Hall and allowed to start the 2nd half. He looked good responding to his first half benching giving a great effort in defending, rebounding, chasing down loose balls, finishing strong at the basket all the while playing sound, inspired basketball. He finished with 8PTS/9REB on 3-of-8 shooting and hit a late 3PT, his second of the night, to go 2-of-3 from beyond the arc.
-The bigger picture remains, what would this game have been if Pope wasn't benched THE ENTIRE first half. We saw JT benched for 4 minutes against St. Peter's, what did Pope do to justify an entire 20 minute stay on the pine? It better be good. We'll know soon enough from Willard. Let's just hope he doesn't try to pin this one on his big man needing to, "see the game."
Update 9:37PM: Brendan Prunty is reporting, that Pope was benched for, "violation of team rules." I've got to applaud Willard for this, yes it may have cost us the game, but if Willard's policy is a one-half benching for violation of team rules, I'm all for it. Coach sent a message tonight that no one is above team rules, best rebounder or not. You'd hope he'd learn from this and you wouldn't expect to see him benched for violating team rules again at any other point this season. Then again, I never thought he'd get caught up in another nut-punching incident after last year's game at SJU. It's obvious that the team was counting on Pope to step up and be a leader with Hazell out for an extended amount of time. Performance aside, he hasn't done his part thus far.
Update 10:00PM: In Willard's post-game presser, he made reference to being, "pissed off," in regards to events that transpired around the team last night. Pope was subsequently benched for one half and it sounds as if more than one player was involved. Initially, I thought Herb may have been late for a practice or meeting in his, "violation of team rules," however, this sounds a bit more serious. Which begs the question, why was he only benched one half, why wouldn't he have been benched an entire game? Did the players go out? Another fight? Polynice only played 3 minutes tonight, any connection there? It's evident that there's not only issues surrounding this team, but the issues are mounting. As Nick on HallLine just made reference to, this ship may start sinking (if it hasn't already), and quickly.
-With 7 minutes remaining in the game, Seton Hall squeaked ahead 51-50 and led for the first time since their 11-10 advantage halfway through the first. Complacency? The word doesn't even begin to explain it. After retaking the lead, the Pirates well, went to sleep, and the Hogs compiled an 11-0 run, sealing the game as SHU failed to make a field goal over a 6 minute stretch from 8-to-2 minutes.
-Jordan Theodore put forth a career night finishing the game with 24PTS/5AST/4STL/3REB/TO on 8-of-18 shooting, but without any of his teammates contributing more than 9PTS, it wouldn't be enough. As a squad, the Pirates shot 35% from the floor and beyond the arc.
-Jeff Robinson was easily the worst player on the floor tonight. Sure, 5 players on the floor failed to score, but none did so in 37 minutes! Robinson played all but 3 minutes tonight and finished on 1-of-9 shooting for 2PTS/6REB. Of course, Robinson took what's becoming his standard 4-3PT attempts per game and well, he missed on all of them, badly. Look, it's pretty apparent that Robinson is attempting to prove that he can hit the long-ball to increase his draft stock (what's left of it), in an attempt to convince pro teams that he can play the 3 and consistently hit from beyond the arc. He can't. We know where his strengths are and I'm not sure why or if I should keep repeating it after EVERY SINGLE game. I mean, Kevin Willard went as far and say anyone that plays for him can shoot away at will. He's content with letting Jeff Robinson waste offensive possessions with terrible shot attempts, so why should we get upset and angered about it? If Willard is cool with his big man shooting 1 OF HIS LAST 12 from beyond the arc, what makes you think it's going to stop? It won't.
-The Razorbacks had 5 finish in double figures, led by Julysses Noble who finished with 19PTS on 7-of-12 shooting. The sharpshooting Rotnei Clarke and his frosted tipped faux-hawk dropped 11 while converting 3-of-7 from long distance.
-Arkansas won the battle on the boards 43-to-33 while adding 6STL/10BLK as they frustrated the Pirates throughout much of the game's 40 minutes. And Seton Hall once again finished the game with a negative AST/TO ratio -- 10:11. View the rest of the
box score carnage, here.
-With 3 fat L's already tallied against the Pirates non-conference schedule, tonight was as close to a, "must-win," as you're going to see in December. Now, sporting a record south of .500 against seemingly mediocre competition, pre-season discussion of NCAA Tournament hopes have been chalked up to just that, discussion. Discussion this team and their fans won't be having again anytime soon this year. Not until they start stringing together consecutive victories. Before all that, they can start with beating teams that they're supposed to beat. Arkansas was one of them. As was Xavier. As was Clemson. Tournament talk? This type of play might get them invited to one of those tournaments where you need to buy your way in. Forget the NIT.