The rim held, but numerous jaws dropped following Eugene Teague's thunderous dunk assisted by Tom Maayan. - Anjelica Martino
"This team understands that if everybody passes the balls, everybody is going to get a piece. That was the best thing about the European trip, we've passed the ball extremely well ever since we went to Europe." Kevin Willard on Seton Hall's unselfish play.
Gone are the frustrating days of Jordan Theodore and Eugene Harvey recklessly driving to the tin amongst the opponent's trees. Don't get me wrong, both players were always good for scoring a few clutch points down the stretch, but the head scratching aspect of a scoring point guard may be a thing of the past at Seton Hall.
Last night was all about sharing both the basketball and playing time on the court. Seven Pirates played at least twenty minutes but none of them saw more than twenty-eight minutes of action. Four Pirates saw double digit scoring totals and only Aaron Geramipoor was held scoreless, who never attempted a shot. Clearly, Seton Hall is no longer a one man or even a two man show, at least for now. "This team was set up totally different last year, we needed Jordan [Theodore] to shoot the basketball more times than not, but now this team has a little bit more weapons that last year's team did," admitted head coach Kevin Willard.
Willard's M.O. continues to unfold much like his mentor Rick Pitino, head coach of the No. 2 Louisville Cardinals: tough defense and three-balls. "This team shouldn't struggle shooting the basketball. All these kids that we recruited are guys that can shoot the basketball, 1-through-4. When we put Brandon [Mobley] and Patrik [Auda] together, that's 1-through-5. I think that's a great weapon, I think that helps space out the court." Building on last season's 31st best adjusted defensive efficiency, the Pirates held UMKC to just fourteen points in the second half and thirty-six on the night while forcing twenty turnovers along the way.
The absence of Jordan Theodore stuck out like a sore thumb for a good portion of the first half last night. The ball was being shared, open shots were being taken, but something just felt off. "I thought we were a little selfish in the first half, we took some tough shots. But I thought we passed the ball great in the second half," said Kevin Willard. The second half was certainly a different story. Unlike the first half, where the Pirates only scored two points on the fast-break, Tom Maayan pushed the ball more in transition and was more assertive on the offensive end. "I like him [Maayan] a little more in transition right now, hes got to get a little more comfortable when to attack in the half court. There's times when guys are pressing up on him and hes got the ball skill and the quickness to go by guys," Willard dissected. While Willard's analysis of Maayan's play was certainly true in the first half, Tom excited the crowd several times after halftime, a few of which involved blowing by defenders.
On a night where 19 of Seton Hall's 25 made baskets were assisted, the Pirates looked in sync more times than not, a far cry from last season's home opening nail-biter against St. Francis (N.Y.) where Seton Hall had a 1:2 assist-to-turnover ratio. "This team understands that if everybody passes the balls, everybody is going to get a piece. That was the best thing about the European trip, we've passed the ball extremely well ever since we went to Europe," remarked Willard.
With a tougher test of Norfolk State, who knocked off Rhode Island by twelve last night, awaiting the Pirates on Monday and a daunting match-up against Washington looming next Saturday, only time will tell if Seton Hall's unselfish play can be sustained.