The Seton Hall Pirates fell to the Syracuse Orange 61-56 this afternoon, but it wasn't for a similar lack of effort like we saw in Louisville. The Pirates finally showed fight while battling one of the better teams in the nation down to the very last second. It was nice to see that they left it all on the court this afternoon. Herb Pope was the best player on the floor and the Pirates outplayed the Orange in many aspects of the game, except the most important one - shooting the rock. Just as it's done them in all season long, another poor performance shooting the basketball finished the Pirates hope of pulling off a miracle upset.
-Herb Pope was outstanding after a first half where he collected 10REB, but failed to make a field goal. Playing most of the second half with 4PF, the Pirates found ways to find him in the post and he stepped up to make 5-of-6 second half buckets to finish the night with 14PTS/20REB/4STL. It was one of, if not the best, performance of Herb Pope's Seton Hall career. It's got to be exciting, not only for the fans, but Kevin Willard and staff, finally seeing the play they've been looking forward to all season. If Hazell is cleared on Monday and Pope continues this type of play, the Pirates should at least make the rest of conference play exciting to watch. Again, what an unbelievable performance by the big fella. Reminds me of his play against Pittsburgh last season.
-A glaring negative was the Pirates clock management on their possessions in the last minute and a half of the game. Down 4 points with 1:30 remaining, the Pirates managed to kill 22 seconds from the clock, before turning the ball over. Then they inbounded the ball down 5 with 35 seconds and wasted 16 ticks before Jordan Theodore took a wild lay-up attempt. If they're going to take a low-percentage shot that late in the possession, they might as well take one (3PT attempt) earlier. Extend the game as long as possible.
-Seton Hall missed their first 17 3-point attempts, yet hung around late in the game. That's a lot of wasted trips. A LOT. I've been saying it all season, if the long-balls aren't falling, the Pirates need change course and try higher percentage shots (to which they saw success pounding the ball to Pope and JRob) opposed to just wasting possessions throughout the game. If Willard called off the 3PT attempts, say, after the first 15 didn't fall, they could have found other ways to put points on the board. Shooting 31% from the floor and 11% (on 3-of-26) from beyond the arc, isn't an effective strategy to beat the #4 team in the nation.
That said, due to terrific performances by Pope and Robinson, they managed to hang around and had their chances late in the ball game. In fact, they had 4 chances to tie or take the lead with less than 2 minutes remaining, but missed every opportunity.
-Jeff Robinson, welcome back. To the post that is. In his most complete game of the season, Robinson finished with a monster double-double 17PTS/14REB on 7-of-14 from the floor. He only attempted 2 3-point attempts and hit one. I'm fine with him staying around 1 or 2 a game, he's shown he's a 30% shooter from outside, so if he wants to shoot one or two, whatever. Just don't shoot your team out of the game. Today, he was magnificent keeping the Pirates in the game. He controlled the first half offensively for Seton Hall and most importantly, he stayed away from the perimeter. His mid-range game was working and he finished strong around the tin throughout.
-Our PG tandem continues to be a problem. A BIG problem. Jordan Theodore missed all 10 of his FG attempts. Keon, who ran the point nearly the entire ballgame wasn't much better connecting on just 1-of-6. Theodore had more TO (3) than PTS (2). I don't know if these guys need to start taking more jumpers in practice, but something needs to change. And quickly.
-Aaron Geramipoor was thrown into the fire and burned his redshirt along the way. He recorded his first REB in limited action for the Pirates. If this kid can pack on 20-30lbs of muscle in the offseason, he's definitely going to be a presence on this club.
-Kudos to the Seton Hall fans in the rock. I was worried, we'd be badly outnumbered by 'Cuse. There was plenty of Orange, but our fans kept the place BUZZING until the very last second. The Rock hasn't had that kind of excitement since last year's West Virginia game.
-Despite the terrible PG play, Seton Hall managed to outplay Syracuse on the boards (43-30), in assists (12-9), TO (12-15) and STL (7-6). The only stat that matters though? 61-56. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of good the Pirates and their fans will and SHOULD take from this game. Hazell's decision will come Monday. If he returns, we'll have an exciting season. And if he redshirts, well, then we'll have a lot of hope for next season. Familiar story, I know, but, it'd definitely be the best thing for the Seton Hall program. Is it the best thing for him? That's a decision that he and his family will need to make in the coming days.