The Pirates were defeated by Northwestern, 80-73, in the championship game of the Charleston Classic, a game in which Seton Hall led with 3:20 to play. On Thursday afternoon, I noted that we would have learned a lot about this young basketball team on Sunday night and now, with the tournament over, we have. This isn't the same team that appeared unprepared and lifeless a week ago. The stumble the Pirates (nearly) took against St. Francis last Saturday, doesn't appear to have set the tone for the season. Don't get me wrong, the team made plenty of mistakes tonight, on both ends, and late in the game at that. That said, there's plenty of positives to take away, not just from the championship game, but from the weekend in general.
Credit to the Northwestern Wildcats, a clinic in ball security and back-door cuts led them to a 10 point cushion at the half. They successfully executed 4 more back-door screens than turnovers committed, as they recorded just one TO in the first 20 minutes. After weathering a 15-0 Seton Hall second half run that saw the Pirates take the lead, the Wildcats held their composure. After made buckets, they began to break out their 1-3-1 defense, throwing the Pirates off after seeing little of it in the first half. Luckily for the Pirates, the Wildcats had somewhat of an off-shooting night, which allowed Seton Hall to stick around and almost leave Charleston with the chip. The Pirates outshot the Wildcats from 3PT distance, rebounded better on both ends and finished with more assists (15-14), but it didn't get the job done. In the end, the Pirates made too many mistakes as the clock dwindled away, including Cosby and Theodore rushing 3-pointers early in the shot clock and a failure to find Pope in the team's final possessions.
As much as the Pirates late game execution will be questioned, the performance and loss, must at least begin with Patrik Auda. In leading up to the game, you heard it from JP and myself that it was time for Auda to break out if the Pirates wanted to defeat Northwestern. Well, they probably could have had the game without Auda, but he did them no favors in getting as close as they did. So, we haven't seen the three-point specialist or the World Games breakout performer that has been hyped for the last two years, but tonight, Auda was simply, awful. Early in the game, he ripped down a quick 4-rebounds and I was convinced he'd hit the glass hard all night long. I was wrong. He would finish with just one additional rebound throughout the night. Furthermore, he looked unsure the majority of the time he was on the court. His rotations were slow, his hands were as useful as stone and the apex of his night came at the lips of a Kevin Willard chew-out following a blown assignment. The final stat line: 0pts (5 shot attempts)/5reb/3ast/2to. He's even losing playing time to Haralds Karis, who finished with 27 minutes to Auda's 23.
In Friday's St. Joe's recap, I stated that I wasn't down on Herb Pope's play, I just expected more, knowing what he's capable of. His play tonight? That's what I'm talking about. Having the game of his life, Herb Pope put his team on his back and nearly carried them himself, to the finish line. Finishing with a career-high 32pts on 14-of-17 shooting (2-of-2 3PT), Pope nearly notched his fourth double-double (originally was credited with 32/10, since has been changed) in as many games bringing down 9 rebounds. He also added 2 blocks and 2 steals (really 3, but the third was deflected off a NW player and out of bounds), in the most complete performance he's put forth while at Seton Hall. The game tape tonight is the type of material that NBA scouts drool over. Luckily for Pope, he made both of his 3-point attempts. On that note, he's about to revoke my right to criticize his shot selection moving forward. That is, until he misses his next one. I'm kidding.
Look for JP's 5 thoughts Monday afternoon and we'll see you again, Tuesday, at home against the Yale Bulldogs.