Embarrassment. And I'm not talking about missing the NCAAs and settling for the NIT. Tonight, the Pirate's proved why the committee left them out of the Big Dance. They weren't even competitive, at home, in the NIT.
That's exactly how the Seton Hall Pirates ended their season and it's an awfully good description of the state of the basketball program at the moment. Following the dismissal of Robert Mitchell, the Pirates forgot to show up for their first round (NIT) contest against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. No offense to TT, but the performance on display tonight was by far, the worst of the season. Other than Jeff Robinson, the team showed very little fight, well, in regards to the game of basketball. Herb Pope, who lead the BIG EAST in rebounding, has been a beast for much of his first year in a Seton Hall uniform and he continued to show fight tonight.
However, like most of the team, Pope's fight didn't come in regards to his basketball skills. Rather, on back-to-back possessions, Pope threw his body into blatant elbow-punches to Darko Cohadarevic's groin. They were the 2nd and 3rd punches Pope has delivered to a man's family jewels this season after the back-handed slap he unleashed on St. John's, Malik Boothe. The slap to Boothe was very strange, but after a little ribbing, I let it go and chalked it up to Herb losing his cool. Now, after he deliberately went for Darko's groin twice, I really don't know what to think. Hopefully, Pope was retaliating to Darko punching him in the same area. Don't get me wrong, I didn't see anything from Darko, but I'm just trying to reason with what happened tonight. I know, I'm reaching. Badly. I'd be lying if I said the image of Mike Tyson continuously going at Evander Hollyfield's ear didn't flash through my mind. I'll leave it at that.
Pope was ejected just 5:40 into a tied (10-10) game and the Raiders immediately reeled off a 13-0 run. Any life that the Pirates brought onto the floor with them had been drained from their bodies. I'm not one to declare a game over early, but trailing 23-10 with 11 minutes left in the first half, it was evident that the Pirates wanted nothing to do with this game. Whether it was the dismissal of their teammate Robert Mitchell or the awkward events leading to Pope's ejection, the team was lifeless. Worse, they were dead. The sad thing? The fun was only beginning.
Failing to significantly cut into the Raiders 2nd half lead, the Pirates trailed by 16 with 11:39 left in the game. John Garcia had just scooped a Nick Okorie missed layup and came down with the rebound. Suddenly there was a stoppage on the floor and I heard an official's whistle, but before seeing what the zebra's had ruled, I already knew. It never fails. The Pirates had the ball, looking to claw their way back from a big hole and BAM, a Bobby Gonzalez technical. It was his 7th of the season and at least his 3rd (unofficial) while the Pirates had possession of the basketball. Does it really surprise anyone anymore? I'd hope not, as this has been commonplace since Gonzo took over the realm. The blue-and-white faithful have had enough. A contingent of fans in attendance (and there were only about 1500 total in the second half) unleashed an audible, "Fire! Bobby!" chant. It was audible over television, even with Fraschilla and Franklin yapping away in the foreground. I've said it all season, the sideline antics can only continue for so long before the coach hurts his team, losses his players, losses the fanbase and gives the program a black eye. How many of the four can we check off at this point in time?
Things couldn't possibly get any worse, right? Wrong. Trailing by 23PTs with 5 minutes remaining, Jamel Jackson found a streaking Jeff Robinson for a clear away power dunk. JRob sent it home alright, it was thunderous. I hate to keep harping on the word, but what followed next may have been the most embarrassing moment of the night. After sending the ball through, Robinson felt it would be appropriate to hang and twist on the rim, taunting an opponent who was beating the daylights out of the Pirates. The officials could have easily called a technical foul and they should have, but like the Pirates, they probably just wanted to get to the parking lot and get on with their lives. They let it slide. The basketball Gods would have none of it. After releasing from the rim, JRob landed awkwardly and buckled his leg, omitting screams of intense pain. He hit the sideline and I was thinking the worst, but he would later return to the game. Props to him for manning up and coming back in, instead of sitting the rest of it out. Did anybody think of those, "want to get away" commercials as the sequence played out? I sure did, in fact, I did while watching tonight's game in it's entirety.
Lastly, Eugene Harvey and John Garcia deserved better than this. Their teammates and head coach put forth a miserable and embarrassing performance in what would be the seniors' last collegiate basketball games. There were tears in Garcia's eyes at the end of the game. He gave everything he had to this program, battling injuries over his career, he busted his ass to get up and down the floor, doing anything he could for his teammates. Like Stix, Eugene Harvey was demoted in the beginning of the season, forced to come off of the bench after 93 consecutive starts. Harvey He was an extremely talented floor general that led Seton Hall for four years. As an overall crafty point-guard, dangerous in space, excellent penetrator, a great finisher and nifty distributor, I'm going to miss watching the kid. I'll remember both Eugene and John fondly as talented and likable young men who contributed a great deal to the Seton Hall University basketball program. Again, they deserved better.
Jeff Robinson was outstanding with 23PTS/12REB on 10-of-20 shooting.
Eugene Harvey finished his Seton Hall career with 12PTS/5AST/3STL, while John Garcia put forth a gutsy performance good for 7PTS and 10REB. Again, thanks for the memories guys and best of luck in your future endeavors. You will be missed, tremendously.