Well, this is a tough one. Arkansas jetted out to a 17 point lead in the first half and were up 12 points at the half. But the Pirates, as has been their custom, came all the way back to take the lead with 7 minutes remaining at 51-50. But from there Seton Hall ran out of gas, as Arkansas went on a 12-3 run over the next 5 minutes to put the game out of reach.
Here are the 5 thoughts for the game.
- Keon looked better
Let's start off with a positive. For all the grief that Lawrence has given Pirates fans over the past year and a half, he remains a solid defensive player. He was fantastic in the first 5 or so minutes, driving to the basket and getting steals off a couple blocks of Rotnei Clarke from behind. I'm honestly a little surprised that Coach Willard subbed him out after those terrific minutes, possibly the best 5 minutes Lawrence has ever played in Pirate Blue and White. After that, Keon came back in later but didn't have the same energy. I think that Willard needs to ride a guy like Lawrence if he's playing well, because who knows whether he'll play that well again? Such is the streaky nature of Keon Lawrence, and if he's streaking in the right way, Willard's gotta use that to his advantage.
- Herb's Benching
After the game, Willard said that the benching was for breaking a team rule, of which Willard said he doesn't have many. If that's the case, I support the benching. But you have to wonder whether Herb not playing in the first half was the reason the Pirates lost tonight. He controlled the glass after the intermission, getting himself a near double- double while pulling down 9 rebounds in 18 minutes, an exceptional rate even for Pope. Pope was easily better than any of Arkansas' bigs in the time he was on the floor. I like that Willard is setting the precedent, but still, one has to wonder.
- Jordan Theodore
Jordan was arguably the best guard on the floor tonight, scoring a career-high 24 points and carrying the Pirates on his back for most of the night. He was the one steady scoring presence tonight, and showed why he's one of the best point guards in the Big East. The offense, as Jimmy Dykes pointed out on the ESPN broadcast, was a lot like an NBA offense in the first half; high screen-and-rolls with Theodore and JT making decisions off those screens (mostly good ones, by the way). For the first part of the game, Seton Hall continually beat their defenders one-on-one. But that brings me to my next point.
- The Three Pointer Issue
The offense devolved after the first media timeout into the bad Pirates; the Pirates that do nothing but sit back in their ship (behind the arc) and fire cannonballs (three pointers) at the opposition. Seton Hall had success driving to the basket coming out of the gate, but then the offense became stale. Just too many threes. Jeff Robinson, who had a rough night and couldn't get anything to drop for him, shot four threes. That's about three too many. I say three because Robinson gets about one really good look per game, but the rest he should never, ever, take. Yes, he's trying to improve his draft stock, but for the team to be most effective, they need him in the post and on the boards. Period. Does he want to get drafted, or does he want to win? Because the dirty little secret that no one seems to realize is that winning can also get you drafted. Sometimes I feel like a psychologist for basketball players.
- (U) Mass Panic?
Next up on the Pirates' schedule is U-Mass, a team that is in the A-10 but should never be mistaken for Dayton or Richmond or Xavier. Because of the loss tonight, UMass becomes a must-win in a lot of ways for Seton Hall. For one, their next two games after that are against Longwood and NJIT at home, games that the Pirates should win by a combined 60 points at least. Then Dayton and Richmond come to town. What this team needs is confidence, and beating UMass on the road leading into those cupcake games will give them some. Chris Wright (Dayton) and Kevin Anderson (Richmond) will be tough customers, and since there will be no Hazell for those games, confidence and momentum need to be high. And it must start with the Minutemen on Saturday. A full scouting report will be available tomorrow from yours truly.
That's it for now. The college basketball season is in full swing, and the party's just getting started. Whether or not the Pirates join the party is entirely up to them.