You could hear it from Newark to New York- the sound of Pirate fans exhaling following a tight overtime win over Mercer Sunday afternoon at Prudential Center.
The win assured Seton Hall of its first undefeated non-conference home slate since 2003-04, the senior year of one Andre Barrett. But many needed to break out the Maalox for this one.
Here are the 5 thoughts:
- Defense, Defense, Defense
Or lack thereof. Seton Hall had its worst defensive outing of the year and survived it. Chalk that up as a moral victory. In the first half, they held the Bears at bay for the first 11-12 minutes. Then the floodgates opened- Mercer shredded the 2-3 Pirate zone, first on threes, then on drives into the paint as well, and came back in the game. In the second half, the Pirates finally played more man defense, but the rotations were just as bad, allowing numerous cuts to the rim for layups en route to a 61% FG% against in the second half. Ugly, ugly defense by Seton Hall Sunday, and no matter what reason or excuse was given, the defense has to be better. Defense is a stat that indicates whether a team is being out-worked, and the Pirates definitely were, despite the result.
The last possession (Mercer down three, needing a 3) sticks in my mind. The Pirates, who had gotten just a little separation through man-to-man defense down the stretch, needed a stop. And they went zone.
I nearly threw my shoe through my computer screen. Yes, the Pirates switched off of what worked back to what clearly didn't work, and as Justin Cecil buried the game-tying basket, I wondered why that happened. Coach Willard is pretty well-known for not missing much if anything that occurs during a game, so how did he miss that Mercer clearly knew what to do against a matchup 2-3 zone? It didn't end up costing Seton Hall the game, but had the Pirates lost, I would be harping on this the rest of the season. Let's hope it doesn't happen again.
- Big (B)East
Herb Pope slapped up another enormous double-double (he leads the nation with 8 now) like it was nothing: 24 PTS and 17 REB that ensured that he led the Big East in both scoring and rebounding. He's also among the nation's best in both categories. In fact, no other players from a power-6 conference are scoring more than he is. The numbers don't lie- if you had to pick an MVP so far, it is unquestionably, without a doubt Mr. Pope. Any other opinion is just plain wrong.
- Stainless Steal
Fuquan Edwin recorded 8 STL on Sunday, along with 15 PTS and 7 REB. The 8 steals tie Levell Sanders and Paul Gause (my favorite Pirate, who did it three times) for the most in a single game in school history. He now leads not only the Big East, but the NATION in thefts per contest. Just let that sink in a little- no one is stealing the ball more than Fu. Pretty cool, ain't it?
It's a virtue, and Jordan Theodore didn't have it at times Sunday afternoon. The 5-18 FG mark was indicative of several forced shots that Jordan still needs to cut down on. When the game is either close, or when he feels a lead slipping away, Theodore has the tendency to try and take over. That's when he does too much, and while his overall line looks good, the percentages weren't. He just has to trust his teammates to make either plays or open shots when things get tight. That builds over time, but old habits are hard to break. We see him doing it beautifully early in games and in situations where it isn't close. The next step is to do it under pressure.
Next up is the first road game of the year at Dayton. Look for a full preview tomorrow here on The Juice!