The Seton Hall Pirates finished their 2009-2010 campaign with a record of 19-12 and 9-9 in the BIG EAST conference. The season was long and contained plenty of ups and downs. It was frustrating, but entertaining, hopeful, but underachieving. Progress was made, but the NCAA tournament was not. Was it enough progress? That depends on the opinion of each individual fan, I suppose. In Bobby Gonzalez's fourth year, he set expectations of making the NCAA Tournament, yet delivered a .500 conference record.
The quality of talent on this year's squad was never in question, yet something was missing. How could a team so talented continuously end up on the wrong side of close games? Furthermore, the Pirates had an opportunity to play their way into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005-2006, yet, they couldn't get up for the game. It was only 24 hours ago that the Pirates were playing their best basketball of the season and only 23 hours ago that they were playing some of their worst. Following last night's scare, Seton Hall picked up right where they left of.
Bobby Gonzalez could benefit by learning a thing or two from Mike Brey's effective use of clock management. After nearly blowing a 29 point second half lead against Providence, the Pirates ran into a Fighting Irish team that held the Pirates at bay by keeping the ball out of their hands. The Irish scored a quick bucket to begin the second half to extend the lead to nine points and the Pirates wouldn't get any closer for the rest of the night. The Irish strategically worked the ball around their offense and spread out a frustrated Seton Hall defense. When the Pirates gambled, Notre Dame made them pay by pounding the ball inside and finding cutting teammates for easy lay-ups and point-blank shot attempts.
I'm sure the Pirates were prepared to defend an Irish team that shoots 40% from long-distance and if you told me they would hit only 3-of-11 3PT attempts, I would have felt pretty confident in The Hall's chances. What they prepared for and what they saw were obviously leagues apart as ND immediately found a mismatch in the Seton Hall interior, taking advantage throughout the night. After Carleton Scott picked up 2PF in the first four minutes, Luke Harangody checked into the game and wasted no time in his pursuit to take over.
There would be no luck of the Pirates tonight as Luke had his way with the interior defense from the minute he checked in. A quick Seton Hall start that produced a 9-2 lead prior to 'Gody entering the game was quickly erased as Luke led his teammates on a 13-4 run, good for 8 of the 13 Irish points. Herb Pope would pick up his 2nd PF with 11:30 left in the first half and hit the bench for extended minutes. That allowed Harangody to abuse John Garcia, Ferrakohn Hall and even Robert Mitchell inside throughout the first half. The Pirates let the Irish score at will around the tin, in fact, 22 of Notre Dame's 28 first half points came from dunks or layups. Think about that, the Irish didn't even need to attempt a jump shot in order to outscore Seton Hall (21) at the break. As Notre Dame was scoring in bunches from inside, Seton Hall would try to catch up from outside. There's one problem with that, when the shots don't fall, adjustments need to be made. The Pirates were just 2-of-18 from long-distance and Jeremy Hazell was 1-of-9 on his own. Shooting 11% on 18 attempts equates to a ton of wasted possessions and that's exactly what the Pirates did for much of the night.
Despite turning the ball over just 6 times, poor shot selection and the lack of an offensive game plan throughout the night more than made up for the, "good" ball control on display. Usually, if the Pirates are playing poorly, they're rushing offensive possessions, however, tonight they seemed to just stand around lifeless, waiting for something to happen. The problem is, nothing happened. Jump shots were tightly defended, ND took Hazell out of the game by briefly throwing a double-team his way, causing him to pass as he was unable to set up penetration.
Pope and Robinson couldn't get going inside and the jump shots weren't falling outside, a true recipe for disaster. As the scoring options thinned, it became apparent that the offense was limited and the players attempted to play one-on-one. Except, the shots wouldn't fall. Hazell continued to launch 3PT attempts that never had a chance, Stix took one of the ugliest fade away 20 foot jump shots we've seen all year, Pope wasted minutes on the bench, JRob was out-muscled in the low post and Keon's lack of confidence caused him to pass up open looks. I summed up the halftime report with, "ugly," however the word would be put to better use in describing tonight's offensive effort. It was one of the poorest we've seen from this club all year and it couldn't have come at a more inopportune time. The Pirates finished the game shooting just 34.5% from the field and 11% from 3PT range, numbers you simply can't expect to win with.
Follow the jump for player breakdowns and quotes from Bobby Gonzalez, Mike Brey and Jeff Robinson
On to the player breakdowns:
-Jeremy Hazell continued his improvement on the glass grabbing 5REB, however he finished with another bad shooting night hitting just 5-of-16 shots for from the floor and 1-of-9 3PT, good for 15PTS. Hazell was again bothered by his recent back injury as the trainers did their best to work on him while he caught a few minutes of rest on the bench. I hope this wasn't his last game in a Seton Hall uniform. Not only does he need to refine his game at the collegiate level, but he's brought a level of excitement to the Pirates that we haven't had in a long time. He's capable of becoming one of the premier players in the nation next season and if he dedicates himself to improving in the off-season, it's likely that he will be.
-Herb Pope gave it his all finishing with 14PTS/9REB, but was severely limited due to foul trouble as he only logged 29 minutes tonight. Playing with 2PF, Pope was a bit careless in the first half. First, he dribbled coast-to-coast before barreling into his defender. Luckily for Pope, the zebra called it as a block, but it could have gone either way. Shortly after, Pope went up for a defensive rebound and whacked Abromaitis in the face, picking up his 3PF before halftime.
The team suffers tremendously when Pope gets into early foul trouble. He attempts to play cautiously to avoid picking up fouls, but by doing so, the opponent ends up scoring too easily inside. When Pope hits the bench, Seton Hall losses it's best rebounder and his replacement rarely puts forth the same defensive effort. It's tough to get on Pope for picking up fouls as he's out there playing as hard as anyone on the floor. The majority of his fouls aren't the lazy or tired type, instead he picks them up like he picked up his 3rd, fighting for the ball and accidentally making contact with the opponent. You've got to applaud the effort, I firmly believe he'll get the fouling under control next season.
-Jordan Theodore, fresh off of multiple games where he has increased his offensive output, only converted 1-of-9 from the floor finishing with 5PTS/2AST/2BLK/2STL. Defensively, he's been as good as anyone this season, but tonight JT was clearly tired. On the first play of the game, he made a miraculous steal after ND recovered the tip-off, penetrated to the basket and drew contact, but ended up turning the ball over. In the second half, JT checked in with about 13 minutes remaining and Hansbrough immediately blew by him. No one rotated over to help him. At that point, any and all questions regarding the team's legs were answered. It was obvious that they were too tired to keep up with the fresh legs of the Irish.
-Bobby Gonzalez rode his senior PG for 37 minutes and Harvey was the most productive SHU PG tonight, finishing with 10PTS/3REB/2AST/2STL on 5-of-8 shooting. It was Harvey and Garcia's last BIG EAST Tournament game in a Pirates uniform. Their leadership on the floor will be missed. Thanks for the memories, guys.
-One of the bright spots of this season has been junior transfer Jeff Robinson. JRob stepped up tremendously over the second half of conference play to levels that few of us expected. He finished his first year in the BE with a 9PT/3REB performance as he struggled to get it going tonight. Robinson couldn't establish his inside game on the ND defenders tonight as he has against recent conference foes.
-Luke Harangody dropped 20PTS/10REB in 24 minutes off of the bench for the Irish. Tory Jackson was Notre Dame's only other player to finish in double-figures (13).
Quick-Hits from the press conference courtesy of Adam Zagoria:
"Keep Seton Hall on the board (for NCAAs). Give it two days, and come back and look at the big picture."
"I THOUGHT this was the most tired I've seen our team the entire year. We just didn't' have our legs."
"We just had too many guys not play well and you're not going to beat a team like Notre Dame with a situation like that."
"There's no doubt we could beat somebody if we got to the NCAA tournament. No doubt. So I think we should be on the board".
"There's plenty of people who saw us who think we're an NCAA tournament team."
"So if we do play in the NIT, we're going to treat that like it's the NCAA and try to win that."
...Much more to come in tomorrow's day after post.