A completely different Seton Hall team stepped off the plane and onto the Charleston floor than what we saw Saturday night against St. Francis. Maybe, just maybe, it was a young team going through first-game jitters, after all? In defeating the VCU Rams, the Pirates look prepared, showed glimpses of a stifling defense (aided by some horrible Rams shooting) and methodically worked their opponent, controlling the tempo from the opening tip. The Pirates never trailed throughout the 40-minutes of play and although the Rams hung tough in the first, Seton Hall put Cinderella to sleep early in the second.
In the controversial moment of the night, Patrik Auda was ejected for using his elbow in an attempt to clear space as he held the ball with a live dribble. Swinging his elbow across his body, Auda landed flush on his defenders chin. Initially, the call on the court was intentional, but after a TV timeout, the officials changed their ruling to a flagrant-2. As it happened, I thought it was the correct call and ESPN's Jay Williams, agreed. By definition, you can't use your elbow to clear distance from your defender. If you swing your elbow above the neck and it lands, well, that's the rule, a flagrant-2. It was unfortunate for the Pirates as I'm sure Patrik wasn't swinging his elbow with ill intentions, but he landed a clean one and the rule's the rule. At the time, the Pirates led by 5 points, just 3 and a half minutes from the half. With Herb Pope already on the hook for two fouls, it sure seemed as if Auda's ejection would loom large throughout. Instead, it would matter little.
Prior to his ejection, Auda was having one of his better games as a Pirate, he impressed in the post with a sweeping, lefty scoop drawing contact and finishing the and-1. He was 3-of-4 from the floor, missing only his lone 3PT attempt and was spelling Pope at the 5 while Herb sat with 2PF in the second half. This game was primed to be Auda's coming out party, but instead, we'll wait. Personally, I'm still waiting for Auda to improve his rebounding and 3-point shooting as the Pirates will count on both aspects of his game as we get deeper into the season and conference play.
Herb Pope finished his second double-double in as many games (20pts/13reb) and the streak is on! Before he get to the good in regards to Pope, let's start with the bad. You remember that permanent green light Willard gave to Jeff Robinson behind the perimeter last season? Why am I asking? Of course you do. Well, in the preseason, Willard preached how his guys would all have the green light, including Pope. And through two games, Pope is 0-for-6 from behind the perimeter. That's six, count 'em, SIX, wasted possessions. Will Kevin Willard put an end to this? It's just two games, but I'm fairly confident that he won't. He had no problem with Jeff Robinson launching away last season when he had no business doing it and it surely seems as if Pope will be allowed to get away with this as he pleases. I mean, these attempts aren't even close. Pope should be pulled and put promptly on the bench whenever he takes a 3-pointer, but instead, Willard lets it fly.
The good Herb Pope put in serious work in the post, where he belongs. Although occasionally finishing a bit soft, Pope is relentless fighting for rebounds. He has no issue making 3-4 attempts for offensive rebounds, whether he's following up his own miss or a teammate's, you can count on him to mix it up whenever he puts himself in position to fight for the ball. Pope started just 3-of-10 from the floor, but improved his accuracy in the seccond half, converting on his final 5-of-7 attempts. It was tremendous to see Pope's two-handed exclamation mark putting the Pirates up by 17 with two minutes to play on a pretty dime from Jordan Theodore.
Theodore finished his second consecutive game with 20 points, despite just hitting 4-of-11 from the floor. Theodore took control of the game at the stripe, hitting all 12 of his attempts. Through his first two games, JT's free-throw shooting looks as good as we've seen from a Seton Hall player in recent years. Tonight, my anxiety was at an all time low with the senior point guard at the line as I was fully confident he'd get his job done at the line. Until we see otherwise, going forward, I will be fully confident in late game situations when Theodore heads to the line. More importantly, though it's just two games, it looks as if Jordan is fully confident in late game situations.
Lastly, Fuquan Edwin was spectacular in his most impressive performance as a Pirate. When he fouled out in overtime against St. Francis you could see the frustration on his face. He didn't play to his fullest ability on Saturday night and I had a feeling Edwin would respond with a great game in South Carolina. I just didn't him expect him to respond to the degree that he did. Playing 35 minutes, hitting 6-of-8 from the floor and 4-of-5 from downtown, Edwin was the best player on the court tonight finishing with 19pts/9reb/3stl/blk. Kevin Willard declaring Fuquan Edwin the X-Factor seems to be pretty damn accurate. If Edwin keeps up this production, the senior tandem of Pope and Theodore will gladly be welcoming a sophomore to their party. Let's hope Willard and the staff keep these guys humble following this terrific victory. We'll see you tomorrow as the Pirates will take on the winner of St. Joe's and Georgia Tech at 6:00PM!