That was too close. But I’ll take it.
After a dreadful first half in which nothing went well, the Pirates somehow shook off a dagger three-pointer that put St. Francis (NY) up six points late, came all the way back on the shoulders of senior captain Jordan Theodore, AND rode Theodore some more in the extra session to their first win in overtime since late in the 08-09 season at Cincinnati.
Here are the 5 Thoughts from a night that had to have taken 3 years off my life.
1. The Half from Hell
The first half for Seton Hall was not good. I’ve got so many other adjectives to use, but I think I’ll settle on that one.
The offense was stagnant beyond repair. The defense was ok, but certainly not up to par. The young Pirates spent a little bit (ok, a lot bit if that’s a word) standing around waiting for an out-pass while the Dynamic Duo (Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope’s collective nickname until I come up with a better one) were forced to basically play 2-on-5.
Patrik Auda (more on him later) and Fuquan Edwin were in foul trouble. Aaron Geramipoor looked like he wasn’t in "game-shape" yet. There were also missed layups galore, open threes given up to known snipers Stefan Perunicic and Ben Mockford, no ball movement, no relief from the perimeter, and enough turnovers to choke a horse to death. I do not wish that type of a half on any fanbase, even Rutgers or Syracuse.
It was that bad. 28% shooting won’t win you anything in the Big East, even if you do shoot 55% in the other half. Yet the Pirates found themselves down only 8 at the break. Coach Willard should thank Mother Seton for doing him a solid on that one.
Two players saved the Pirates from themselves tonight- one was Theodore, and the other was Patrik Auda. His impact was felt throughout the second half and the overtime period. He was smart with the ball, not trying to do anything that wasn’t there. On defense, he really played great, especially down the stretch. He stayed right with the much quicker Dre Calloway on one particular possession I can remember, and on another, he dove on the floor to tip a loose ball away from the Terriers leading to a Haralds Karlis dunk.
Offensively, he JUST missed two wide open threes that would have been huge late in the game, and his final line won’t ‘wow’ you (8 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST in 34 mins.), but otherwise he was poised when most of the team was in disarray. Thank you, Patrik.
3. Freshman Freeze
The freshmen class bore the brunt of my angst for almost the entire game. Perhaps it was first-college-game jitters. Perhaps it was St. Francis playing well. I think it was a little of both, and that really can’t continue for much longer because there are only so many places the Pirates can turn for help when someone from that class isn’t playing well, let alone everyone like tonight.
Each player had a couple nice plays tonight, but when I can individually name each play for each player, that’s not a good thing. For Aaron Cosby, it was a rather big basket late in the game plus a foul drawn. For Freddie Wilson, it was a nice lead pass to Auda behind the defense, which Auda converted into another 3-point play opportunity. For Karlis, it was twofold, with a dunk that I’ve mentioned above in the OT session and a great defensive play to avoid fouling a jump shooter for St. Francis on the ensuing possession.
Those were all nice plays, but the Pirates need more from them in the very near future. Once Big East play begins, there won’t be time to adjust anymore. Luckily, this was game number 1 of 10 non-conference contests, so there is time for the Pirate youth movement to gain its sea legs.
4. FREE Throws
They’re named that for a reason. Had the Pirates shot an average percentage from the line tonight, we wouldn’t be talking about any overtime or late-game drama. You don’t need a stat sheet to know this. So many bricks when there should be free points (and I believe the Pirates in particular will need them this season) hurts the chances of any team. The prime culprits were Edwin and Cosby who were a combined 3-10 from the stripe.
The one bright spot from the line was Herb Pope, who seems to have worked on his stroke from there (5-7 in the game). That will definitely help things, but it’s a team-wide effort that needs to be made. Trying to beat UConn or West Virginia while shooting that badly from the foul line is like trying to knock off the Miami Heat with a high school team.
5. Captain Theodore
There was a story in the Star Ledger Saturday that Jordan Theodore asked to be named this year’s Captain, a tall task for anyone. The coaching staff thought he was worthy of the honor.
Well, I think Theodore showed why he deserves the honor. The offense down the stretch ran through him and him only. He had one HUGE mistake (a traveling violation with mere seconds remaining in regulation that might have ended it), but shook it off to drive strong to his left and bank in the game-tying layup to force overtime. In the overtime session, he scored on a similar play to that which he tied the game, sinking the basket plus the free throw to give Seton Hall a lead they would not relinquish.
That’s what a captain does- when things get tough, a captain takes the team on his back and leads them. Theodore did that tonight. The numbers were not efficient at all, but Theodore came up huge when he needed to. He even iced it with free throws; at 9-10 tonight, he was the only Pirate who attempted a free throw in the game to miss less than 2.
That’s it for now. I think we won’t see many more halves like the first half again, where literally NOTHING goes right, but this will be more difficult than the preseason reviews made it out to be (as usual). As I tweeted near the end of the game, "If it isn’t nerve-wracking, it isn’t Seton Hall Basketball."