That was fun.
It was cathartic, it was impressive, and it was SO DAMN FUN!
Shaking off some opening rust, the Pirates responded in a gigantic way, thoroughly dismantling the defending national champions with wall-to-wall effort and hustle, improving to 2-1 in the Big East and 9-0 this season at home. Pirate fans are ecstatic, and have a right to be- earlier this season, we talked about emerging 1-2 from the first three games of the Big East slate this season, saying that we'd sign up for that.
I think it's time to change what we'd sign up for. Here are the Thoughts from Kevin Willard's biggest win yet at The Hall, one that left every Pirate in the Nation smiling ear to ear:
- No Jazz for Shabazz
Coach Willard's gameplan was to try and shut down Shabazz Napier, knowing Jeremy Lamb would get his (he did, with a game-high 19 PTS). Napier, meanwhile, was harassed into a miserable night, consisting of 2-12 shooting (1-6 from deep) for 6 PTS, 4 AST and 5 TO. The Pirates were physical with him, and even knocked him down a couple times with no call from the officials. The result was that Napier was taken mentally out of the game, and when that happened, UConn's offense stalled irreparably. The Huskies were forced into stagnant possessions and they just couldn't get anything close to the paint, taking them completely out of their gameplan. Major kudos to the coaching staff.
- 5 Hour Mobley
Seton Hall needed a lift in the first half after the first 4 minutes left them down 11-4 with Patrik Auda already in foul trouble. They got it in a big way from Brandon Mobley. 8 PTS, 7 REB and two threes dug the Pirates out of that ditch and led them on their way to nearly tripling UConn's output from the under-16 timeout until halftime. His energy was palpable, and it spread to the rest of the team like a shot of caffeine in the morning. It may not have been the exact reason Seton Hall won the game, but without that lift, it's a much different ball game.
- Fuquan the Fantastic
Fuquan Edwin may not have had 5 steals or anything, but he DID get his first career double-double of 12 PTS and 11 REB. But Edwin's impact went further than that- he was a ball-hawk tonight, and his presence caused several deflections (of which Coach Willard said the Pirates had 40 for the game in the press conference) and led to steals for others. Edwin, when he defends like he's capable of (which is often), is a player that disrupts the opposing offense with his ninja-quick reflexes and length. Jay Bilas hits it right on the head with this tweet from last night.
- Mr. Theodore's Opus
You have to give Jordan Theodore a lot of credit. His second half was a thing of beauty- all 19 of his points came in that half, with three straight three-pointers sandwiched around the second media timeout that put the game all but out of reach. He also added 11 AST, tying his career-high, against just 4 TO. In fact, Theodore is now just 26 AST away from tying the number he had ALL OF LAST SEASON. Leaving him off the Cousy Award list is looking stupider and stupider by the millisecond.
- Looking Ahead
I don't want to brag (too much, haha), but I called both a bench player stepping up unexpectedly tonight (Mobley) AND the three-point barrage in the second half while courtside for WSOU. Looking into the future now, the Pirates now have 5 games in which they should be favored to win- at Providence, home to DePaul, at USF, at Villanova, home to Notre Dame. It represents an enormous opportunity for them. If they continue to win games, with the victory tonight, it should get them a spot in the Top-25. And this isn't the Gonzo-era smoke and mirrors Top-25 talk. This is legitimate. Legitimate wins will do that for you. Many think that a W at Providence on Saturday will get Seton Hall back into the polls. I'll reserve judgement on that, but if they take advantage of the next couple weeks, we could be looking at something BIG this season.
That's all for now. My preview of the Providence game should be up either late Friday or Saturday morning here on the Juice. I am eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to call this game for WSOU, and hopefully those good feelings continue for the team, the fanbase, and all of Pirate Nation.
Fly those flags proudly, Pirate fans. After all this time, you certainly deserve it.