What dual-dismissal do you speak of? If anything, the permanent vacations of Jamel Jackson and Keon Lawrence benefited their former teammates in Seton Hall's 69-64 victory at the RAC on Saturday night. Addition by subtraction, anybody?
Without a true backup PG on the roster, Eniel Polynice stepped up tremendously as he received the starting nod in place of Jordan Theodore. JT came off the bench to put forth one of the better performances of the season and his career, finishing with 18PTS on 7-of-9 shooting while making good on 3-of-5 3PT attempts. The PG tandem combined for 25PTS/11AST/8REB/3TO, with all 3TO coming from the backup-turned-starter Polynice. Although Polynice received the start tonight, you've got to believe it'll only be a one game thing. We've seen Willard bench his starters in various games this season for no other reason, but to, "slow the game down" and let them watch from the pine to start the game. Don't read too much into this as a disciplinary issue, it seems as if Coach simply wanted Theodore to understand that he needs to play better after one too many disappointing performances as of late. As he did earlier in the season, Theodore once again responded to the benching with an exceptional performance tonight.
Interestingly, after receiving 3 straight DNPs due to illness, Anali Okoloji was in uniform tonight, but didn't see any action, depleted roster and all. Willard only used 8 players and 5 of which logged 29+ minutes a piece.
Jonathan Mitchell (24PTS/7REB) came on late and nearly swung this game in favor the Scarlet Knights, but the Pirates were actually able to make late stops despite an absolutely horrific intentional foul that was called on Herb Pope. As readers of the site know, I NEVER complain about the officiating, but after the UConn game and that intentional foul call tonight, it's becoming increasingly difficult. Gilvydas Biruta also contributed 18PTS in a losing effort, but outside of the 42PTS the duo added, their teammates could only muster an additional 22. It simply wasn't enough to win this low scoring affair.
Hazell finished with 19PTS despite making just 1-of-5 from deep. He did most of his damage from the charity stripe as he sank 8-of-9 FT attempts, in a night where his teammates struggled mightily with the gimmes (4-of-11). Herb Pope didn't record a double-double (12PTS/6REB) and JRob didn't score in double-digits (6PTS/8REB), yet the Pirates rallied around each other to fight, scratch and claw to even the Turnpike-Tussle at one a piece. Seton Hall could have responded to the double-dismissal in one of two ways. Rally around each other, (each other being) the players who take the game seriously on and off the court, or they could have laid an egg, failing to adhere to the message that Willard sent this morning. Thankfully, the Pirates chose the former. For at least, another night.