Well, that was a night to remember.
The Pirates got their first win over Marquette in nearly 55 years in a very choppy 85- 72 game at the Prudential Center. It was Senior Night at the Rock, and Jeff Robinson, Eniel Polynice, Darnell Gatling and Jeremy Hazell were honored in a pregame ceremony. They all started the game, another nice gesture.
Then the game began, and the fun (depending on your point of view) ensued.
In the first half, the Pirates carried over their hot shooting from beyond the arc, nailing 11-18 from there. In fact, they had more threes in the first half than twos, as they opened up a lead they would never totally relinquish. The Pirates took a 49-35 lead into the break, barely missing their best half of the year. The Golden Eagles made a game of it in the second half, but were never able to come all the way back. Marquette never led in the ballgame as the Pirates put a serious dent in their NCAA Tournament chances.
Here are the observations from the first Senior Night Success since the 06-07 season:
I have to mention these clowns first and foremost. John Gaffney, Gary Prager, and Jeff Anderson might as well have been Larry, Moe, and Curly because what happened in this game was a comedy show of the worst officiating I have ever seen in all my life in any sport at any level. They were horribly inconsistent on nearly every call they made, and it left me wondering how they ever were selected to referee in the Big East. They took away all rhythm of the contest and made a normally 2-hour game last nearly 3 hours. A total of 70 free throws were shot in this game. SEVENTY. I don't like to blame officials often, but when plain and obvious idiocy changes the entire face of the game, something must be said. Gaffney, Prager, and Anderson should be ashamed of themselves.
Fifty-three fouls were called in this game, with each more ridiculous than the one before it. Aaron Geramipoor got called for a foul while playing straight-up, textbook defense. Patrik Auda got called for a foul on what was clearly a jump ball. Robinson was called for 4 ticky-tack fouls that prevented him from really shining on his senior night (he nailed 3-3 deep balls in the first half before 3 fouls sidelined him for a long stretch of time). It was just plain atrocity from the Zebras. It took away from what really was a good performance by Seton Hall.
- Bench Play
...was the reason Seton Hall won this game. After Robinson got into foul trouble, Auda came in and had his best game in Blue and White BY FAR. 14 PTS, 6 REB and 3 three-pointers in just 19 minutes of action helped to close the gap when Robinson was out. He was alright on defense, not as good as he was Thursday night, but adequate enough as the Pirates needed him to do well out there on the floor. He passed that test with flying colors.
Geramipoor's line wasn't pretty at all (0 PTS, 0 REB, 5 fouls, 0-4 FTs), but make no mistake about it- Seton Hall needed Geramipoor to step up as well in the face of even more foul trouble. Geramipoor was stellar on defense yet again, with the only mistake being his 5th foul, when he foolishly hammered Jimmy Butler at the rim off a Pirates' turnover. He was active, he denied the post with tremendous vigor, and he had more good screens than a movie theater. He was probably the second biggest victim of the Zebra Atrocities behind Robinson.
Anali Okoloji was also needed at center (when I say there was foul trouble, everyone but Okoloji had at least 4 fouls among Seton Hall post players. It was that bad), and he stepped up as well, throwing down a nasty put-back dunk that got everyone up and cheering. Okoloji hasn't really played much this season, but that was a great play when the Pirates really needed it.
This play from the freshmen off the bench (Seton Hall had 33 bench points in the game) gave Pirate fans a glimpse of what the future could look like. Auda showed off everything he had, while Geramipoor played with hustle and heart, as did Okoloji. They went out when they were called upon to give minutes, and were ready for action. It's a tremendously good sign.
Hazell scored his number (21 PTS on 6-11 shooting (4-5 from three, an uncharacteristic 5-9 on FTs), plus 4 REB and 4 STL) and once again looked stellar. It's pretty safe to say he's back. Which for potential Pirate opponents is a very bad thing.
Eniel Polynice had a typical glue line of 11 PTS / 5 REB / 5 AST / 2 BLK, and was a key ball-handler against the Marquette press that they utilized a lot in this game. It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done.
Robinson scored 10 points and did not do much else due to foul trouble.
Darnell Gatling played 3 minutes and the crowd loved every second.
I know, the defense has been great all year long, but here's something about me- I LOVE GREAT DEFENSE. Any sport, any day of the week, great defense gets me amped up, and there was plenty of it to go around at the Rock. The Pirates' zone-to-man-and-back-again D worked wonders Saturday night, holding the Golden Eagles, the Big East's most efficient offensive team, to 40% shooting, and a point total that would have been lower had it not been for a flurry of threes.
The past three games, the defense has really been on a roll. For much of the Notre Dame game and all of the last two games, the Pirates' D has been Oscar-worthy. In this particular game, it was a miracle to me that neither Pope nor Robinson fouled out when they played for about 6 minutes with 4 personal fouls. Speaking of Pope, he shut off the paint again, meeting all drivers with deft rotations, and denying the post-ups of Chris Otule and company.
Hopefully this roll can carry over the Hudson to MSG this week. Next on tap is Rutgers, and if the Pirates advance, they will meet St. John's. The Metro Area Gauntlet. Enjoy the ride while it lasts!
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