First off- what an entertaining game. Gotta give credit to both teams on that.
Second- what tremendous resolve by Seton Hall in the second half.
The Pirates hunkered down and fought like crazy for this win. It was well-deserved over a St. Joseph's team whose star was having a career night. Here are the 5 Thoughts from a great, great win over the Hawks:
1. Defense Wins
The Pirates in the first half just could not find or stop St. Joseph's star guard Carl Jones, as he torched the nets for 22 PTS on 7-8 shooting. The 2-3 zone the Pirates opened up in did not rotate very well or very quickly, and the Hawks took care of the rest, moving the ball enough for Jones to cut to an open spot and nail a jump shot. There was also some not-so-good shooting on the Pirates' end, but it was mainly the defense having an off-half after the terrific 40 minutes they had vs VCU the night before.
That being said, the second half was worlds better on both ends. The Pirates started fast, closing the 7-point deficit in a flash, and then getting stops on the defensive end to boot. St. Joe's counterpunched, but then Seton Hall went on a game-changing run midway through the half to come back and take the lead. During this run, the defense neutralized Jones, turned the Hawks over a few times, and executed well while the offense started knocking down shots. Fantastic effort in this game translated into a big win.
2. A Confident Pope
Herb Pope did not have his best game down low. He struggled with the shot blocker CJ Aiken and the general girth of the Hawks' front line, shooting just 4-13. But that didn't stop him from being aggressive- he attempted 9 free throws and made EIGHT (!) while getting his 10 rebounds and finishing with 17 PTS for his 3rd straight double-double to open the season. Heck, he even took only one three (and, more shockingly, made it). Pope could have drifted to the perimeter and started taking jumpers, but he stayed hard-nosed and focused on the game plan to take it at the St. Joe's front line. It speaks to his level of maturity and focus. I don't think Pope does what he did Friday night last year or the year before that.
3. Jordan the General
The numbers don't lie- this was one of Jordan Theodore's very best nights as a Pirate. 18 PTS, 10 AST (tying a career-high), 7 REB on 6-11 shooting is a great line for the senior. He's the General of this army of Pirates without question. His defense on Carl Jones during that run in the second half opened the door for the Pirates to take control of the game. If he keeps this pace up, he's an all-Big East player for sure. I hope the nickname can stick for Jordan- it really is a great fit.
4. A Freshman Emerges
Welcome to Seton Hall, Mr. Aaron Cosby! The talented scorer from Louisville finally broke out against the Hawks, knocking down 3-6 from distance and scoring 13 PTS. Those threes were big, by the way. A couple of them came during the run that I mentioned above in the second half. It took Cosby a while to get his feet under him, but he nailed some big shots tonight, the first of many, hopefully. Mondo props to him for stepping up.
5. European Union
Patrik Auda has had a frustrating tournament. He was in constant foul trouble tonight that limited his effectiveness. Therefore, someone had to step up. His fellow Euros did just that- Haralds Karlis contributed on the scoreboard with 8 points and Aaron Geramipoor contributed as well with 4 rebounds in 7 minutes. Geramipoor is playing better than people are giving him credit for- the rebounding from him is so key because someone has to help Herb Pope out. So far, with Auda being limited for various reasons, Geramipoor has grabbed a little more than his share of boards given his playing time. Until Brandon Mobley returns, the Pirates have a thin post rotation, so any help Auda and Geramipoor can give Pope is welcome.
The Pirates now advance to the Championship game of the Charleston Classic on Sunday night at 8:30 on ESPNU. They will face the Northwestern Wildcats, the favorites down in South Carolina. It will be a great test for this young team.