It didn't start pretty, but the Pirates are where pretty much no one thought they would be heading into Big East play.
11-1. Their best start since the 92-93 season, when they were a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament and Big East Tournament Champs. Just saying....
Here are the 5 Thoughts:
- He's Number One!
Jordan Theodore was almost unstoppable on Friday night, notching a career-high 26 PTS on 11-18 shooting with 4 REB and 6 AST. He played his usual adhesive defense, frustrating Longwood point guard Jeremiah Bowman, and made his share of plays for the Pirates, but he realized soon enough that literally no one wearing a Longwood uniform could stop him. In a stretch that spanned the end of the first half and most of the second half, Theodore literally took over the game, switching to attack mode and scoring on multiple drives into the paint where, more often than not, he finished. Theodore also recorded his 1,000th career point in the process on what was one of the best games of his career, by statistics or otherwise.
I was also impressed with the fact that although he took 18 shots, he didn't force A SINGLE ONE. It was probably the senior-est of his senior performances this season. He saw what was needed, saw what the defense was giving him, and took full advantage.
- Pope the Playmaker
Herb Pope, by this year's standards, had a bit of an off-game. By other standards, he was very good. Watching the game, the Lancers double-teamed Pope on every catch he made anywhere near the paint (look for more Big East teams to do that, by the way). But like Theodore, Pope rarely if ever forced anything. The 5 turnovers stand out as the bad stat of the night, but Pope only took 6 shots. He scored 8 PTS with 10 REB, a line that scoring-wise is not very good, but when you factor in his 4 AST, he had a decent night. He made the appropriate out-passes out of the double-teams, showing off his underrated passing skills. It almost seemed like he knew the Pirates would prevail eventually, and was content to make plays for others since he was seeing so many double-teams. The line may not be good, but he did alright. Expect him to continue his strong season in Big East play.
That's how many of Fuquan's nights have been described. I don't know how he does it. I really don't. But whenever Edwin puts up the kind of numbers like he did on Friday (20 PTS, 9-12 shooting, 2-5 on threes, 5 REB, 4 STL), he never ends up being part of the conversation at the end of the game. Even when I make an effort to make it a big deal, it's not a big deal. Fu tied his career-high in scoring, and the conversation was more about Theodore and Pope.
It reminds me of former New Jersey Nets forward Nenad Krstic. When he was in New Jersey, before he tore his ACL, Krstic made the Big Three of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson a Big 4. Krstic silently went about his business getting double digit points, his share of rebounds, and hitting pretty much every open 15-foot jumper he saw. Fuquan's this squad's Krstic- always a pretty big story when he plays well, but never mentioned like that. I nicknamed him 'Fuquan the Ninja' and that seems to be the perfect one to describe his effect on this team.
- Super Frosh
Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's.... BENCH PRODUCTION!
Seton Hall's bench was the most effective it's been all season by far. The reserves contributed 19 PTS, which has to be a season-high. Brandon Mobley had career-bests of 8 PTS and 5 REB, Sean Grennan contributed a pair of career-bests with 5 PTS and 3 AST, Aaron Geramipoor had a great 10 mins of 2 PTS, 3 REB and only 1 foul, and Haralds Karlis' one basket was a freaking beautiful Kobe Bryant-esque fadeaway off the dribble from the top of the key. Terrific night for the young Pirates.
- Game flow
The opening minutes weren't very good. Longwood got way too many looks from beyond the arc, and made all of them. Jan Van Der Kooij was having a career night, and the Lancers led 17-6 at one point. Then the Pirates started running in transition, and playing better defense, and running some more. Longwood started to unravel, and then Jordan Theodore took the game over, and that was that. Seton Hall ended up with 46 (!) points in the paint, 22 points off 16 Longwood turnovers, 14 fast break points, and 13 second chance points while shooting 57% for the game.
Next up is the biggest test yet as the Pirates begin the Big East gauntlet flying high with 8 straight wins, an 11-1 record, and a top-3 RPI ranking. They get #1 Syracuse on Wednesday to open it up, and yours truly will be calling all the action on WSOU. A full preview will be up next week, and until then, we at South Orange Juice wish all of you Pirates out there a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! May all of you have a safe and happy Holiday Season! And......