Boy, did Pirate fans need this. Badly.
Seton Hall came into this game under .500 at home this season (6-7), without a single big win despite myriad chances to get one.
Those don't matter right now. In a lost season, all that matters is the One Big Win. And the Pirates played a full 40 minutes of basketball for one of the first times all year to knock off #15 St. John's in front of 9,470 at the Prudential Center.
Let's be perfectly honest- no one, not even Pirate fans, gave Seton Hall any chance in this game. With so many things against them, there was no way the Pirates would pull it off, right? Wrong.
Here's how the Hall finally got their big home win:
We have to capitalize this point. The Pirates shot an unreal, out-of-this-world 64% FOR THE GAME. They shot 12-18 from deep, and both those numbers are better percentages than they shot from the free throw line (18-32). I don't shoot that well in NBA Live, let alone in an actual game. Everything was dropping for the Pirates. If they would have shot it from the upper deck, they would have made it.
Jeremy Hazell took the brace off his left hand and scored a season-high 31 points on 9-14 shooting, including 4-6 from deep. I don't think this is coincidental. If Hazell is smart, he will drop the brace altogether. He clearly doesn't need it anymore. He hit some classic, vintage Hazellian shots, one practically left-handed as he stepped AROUND his defender in the corner, and one from Harlem-range as he was being fouled near the sideline. He had the type of night that he started the year with.
It was such a phenomenal shooting performance that Fuquan "Fuuuuuuuuq" Edwin shot 5-6 from three-point range (FUQUAN EDWIN?!?!). He went for a career-high 19. Once he started knocking down threes, you knew it was going to be a good night.
- TRANSITION GAME
The Pirates came out playing crisp, fast, smart transition basketball. St. John's pressed the entire game, and after a disastrous opening two minutes (4 possessions, 4 turnovers), Seton Hall just put everything else aside and moved the ball beautifully to get themselves some great looks (and I do mean GREAT looks) at some shots. Now there were turnovers anyway (18, the one blemish on an otherwise stellar box score), but 11 of them came in the first half, with 4 of those in the opening minutes. It didn't end up mattering. The Pirates knocked down the shots they were taking, and they scored more transition points than they've scored in about a year, if I had to guess.
It was great. It really was. The focus defensively was there from the opening tip. The Pirates were active, alert, and they stuck their hands in passing lanes. There were fouls as well (Eniel Polynice and Jeff Robinson fouled out), but again, it didn't matter. It also didn't matter that the Pirates gave up 70 points. That happened because they pressed more (much more) than usual and St. John's did a good job of breaking it.
The game balls on defense goes to Patrik Auda and Herb Pope. Pope's second half defensively was a thing of beauty. He didn't pick up a single personal foul, and in the middle of that 2-3 zone, he shut down the paint defensively. St. John's was getting a boatload of points in the paint in the first half, and those opportunities just were not there in the second half.
Auda, meanwhile played the best game of his Seton Hall career despite not scoring a point. His defense was tremendous, as Robinson and Pope at certain points in the game were saddled with foul trouble. He did a great job joining with Pope in the second half to shut down the paint, and did a very good job spelling Pope in the first half. The freshman Auda also did not back down on a late rebound scrum with St. John's senior DJ Kennedy, throwing Kennedy off on the tie-up. It sparked the end-of-game stuff, but I'm impressed that Auda, when the game was already won, kept on playing and did not back down. By the way, his new nickname, inspired by both that play and this commercial, is Patrik "I Lift Things Up and Put Them Down" Auda. For life.
For the first time in at least the last 5 years, it was the Pirates who were the composed team down the stretch. Steve Lavin, in response to a call that didn't go the Red Storm's way down the stretch, got two consecutive technical fouls and was ejected to the delight of the Seton Hall faithful. After the aforementioned Auda play, Anali Okoloji went up for a dunk on the break with 7 seconds left (he probably shouldn't have done that, but that's a discussion for another day) and was trucked to the floor by Justin Burrell, who was given a flagrant foul and was also ejected. After Burrell's foul, Herb Pope charged at Burrell, but was held back by a streaking Coach Willard from the sidelines. When the composure threatened to be broken at that juncture, Willard nipped it in the bud.
Oh, and that's not to mention how Jordan Theodore played the final 5 minutes with 4 personal fouls like a true floor general. The composure that the Pirates have not shown in their recent history was on their side last night. It helped them FINALLY pull away late in a game. That in itself is satisfying.
I called the game on WSOU with South Orange Juice's own John Lopiano and let me tell you- it was a true thrill and a privilege to call that game. Technical difficulties aside, it was a truly exciting night. And the Pirates are going to need to bring that same effort on Saturday as Seton Hall honors Jeremy Hazell among others. Marquette is desperate for a win and it is a game they must have. They will not come out and lay an egg. A mini-preview will be up on the Juice tomorrow.
For now, enjoy this win, Pirate fans. Wear your Pirate Blue with pride.
Onward Setonia. We are bound for victory.
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