The Pirates finally got a game on a weekend at a time that wasn't noon, and they came out energized (albeit sloppy) from the get-go. But the sloppiness that opened the game dissipated as the half wore on.
The 5 Thoughts from the not-so-letdown game:
- Herb's Takeover
Mr. Pope was stellar. 23 PTS, 10 REB, 4 BLK and 1 spectacular play in which he grabbed a rebound, brought the ball up the court, drove right, spun back left, and flipped the ball in with his right hand (plus the foul) and brought the crowd of 9,880 to its feet. Every single time Pope came out of the game, he got a standing ovation from at least a few people. Although Bilal Dixon did have a double-double of his own, Pope played great defense helping out on the Friars' drives. He also played a good 6 minutes in the second half to finish off the game with 4 fouls. And that's not even mentioning his emphatic dunk at the end in response to Duke Mondy being a total, selfish jerk. Totally impressive performance from Pope, who is looking like the Pirates' best player right now with the inconsistencies of Jeremy Hazell so far in his return from wrist surgery.
Hazell had yet another off-day, going 3-12 from the field for 10 PTS, but he contributed in other ways, grabbing 4 boards and finishing with an impressive team-high 6 AST. Many of Hazell's assists were making an extra pass, either on the break or off the dribble. Two of these stand out- one in the first half on the break where he passed back to Jeff Robinson for a thunderous jam (the first time Robinson has actually dunked this year if my memory serves me correctly), and the second was a B-E-A-Utiful touch pass to Robinson on the perimeter, where he promptly drained a three-pointer. Hazell clearly has no longer let his shot-making affect his defense, one of the toughest things to teach a basketball player. While I would love Hazell to become more consistent by the end of the year, I really liked his passing today.
- Free Throws
It was the stat of the game- the Pirates shot 18-22 (82%) from the line while the Friars shot just 17-31 (55%). This was an extremely foul-filled game, with both starting point guards fouling out (Theodore and Vincent Council) and a total of 10 players accumulating 3 or more fouls. Seton Hall has shown lately that they can make the freebies. Even Herb Pope has shown a consistent stroke from the line, even if that stroke doesn't result in a phenomenal percentage.
They were terrible. Jim Burr, Roger Ayers and Brent Hampton made some bad calls for both sides, but were outrageously inconsistent with what was a foul and what wasn't. Even more egregious was that Keno Davis (who, to his credit, is a great guy and pretty easygoing) wasn't called for a technical foul when he could have had about three. The best thing the crew did all night was when a Providence fan said one word too many to Burr as the officials were walking off the court towards their locker room. Burr ejected the fan. Apart from that, it was not a red-letter day for the Zebras.
- CBA Visit
The entire Canarias Basketball Academy, visiting stateside for a US Tour that culminates at the National Prep Showcase in Rhode Island (the tournament in which Patrik Auda was named to the All-Tournament team a year ago), was in attendance. I tried to spot Haralds Karlis, but ultimately could not. But the CBA saw a pretty great game, and I have a feeling that the pipeline Willard has established there will continue to be prolific. Auda and Geramipoor have come as advertised- smart players who defend and are never out of control while also being willing to accept coaching.
This was to be the let-down game, and thanks to a terrific first half that result never materialized. The Pirates now travel to Morgantown to face a depleted West Virginia team before their huge showdown with UConn on Saturday. Can the Pirates now keep a real surge of momentum going? More in my preview on Tuesday.