When I talked to head coach Kevin Willard at Big East Media Day, he remarked about how this year's team had so many more reliable scoring options to go to than in years past, that because of that, the offense sans-Theodore/Pope wouldn't drop off too much.
Well, on Monday night, the coach proved prophetic. Three Pirates scored in double figures, while three more managed at least 6 PTS in a hard-fought win over Norfolk State.
Here are the 5 Thoughts:
- Fuquan the Ninja
Edwin had a darn good game. He went for a season-high 23 PTS and 10 REB, his second career double-double, while swiping 6 STL and making 8-9 free throws (long a concern for him). He only shot 7-19 from the floor, and 1-5 from deep after knocking down 4-6 threes in the opener against UMKC, but a sizable chunk of those misses were in close to the hoop in the first half, when both sides struggled to finish.
In the second half, Fuquan was much more efficient, and it paid off for him. His only other double-double came in the monumental W over UConn last season at home.
- Return of Dr. Huxtable
By that I mean Aaron Cosby, of course. The sophomore came back from his sprained PCL tonight and played well considering the circumstances. He had 8 PTS and 3 REB, knocking down a three as well. He did look like he was just in need of some more game-speed conditioning, committing 4 fouls, but as far as his knee goes, it appears to be just fine.
Tom Maayan started for the second straight game and was solid once again. His final line showed 6 PTS, 5 AST (with 3 turnovers) and a steal. He also was left wide open again and knocked down a three for the second straight game. He was not as good as he was vs UMKC, but it was another encouraging performance with Freddie Wilson serving Game 2 of a two-game suspension for violation of team rules.
Once again, the presence and play of Eugene Teague made an enormous difference. The game basically came down to control of the paint- the team that did so at any one point was usually the team in control overall. Well, thanks to Teague, at the end of the night, that team was Seton Hall. Collecting 16 PTS, 11 REB (six of them on the offensive glass), and shooting 7-11 from the floor, Teague demanded double-teams all night long. His first half was uneven (he had to sit the last few minutes with 2 fouls and committing 4 turnovers), but his second half was much better. He did not give the ball up once in the final stanza.
The one chink in the armor? 2-6 on free throws. Nothing a few hundred reps can't fix, though.
- Supporting Cast
It seems to change nightly- different players step up at different times. Tonight it was Edwin and Teague doing the lion's share. Kyle Smyth played brilliantly, knocking down all four of his shots (all threes, I might add) and scoring 14 PTS in 27 minutes off the bench with 2 AST and ZERO turnovers. With Brian Oliver struggling with his shot tonight, that was much-needed.
Patrik Auda also played well off the bench, scoring 8 PTS with 3 REB, an assist and a blocked shot in 21 minutes. We'll come back to him in just a second. Brandon Mobley was covered very tightly tonight, and the wiry sophomore didn't force things. What he did do was work his tail off to complement Teague with 10 REB of his own along with 3 AST despite not scoring a point (weird stat line, huh?).
But back to Auda for a second. He has a unique skill set- we know this already. But in the opening two games, he's been used as a change-up off the bench, and it seems to suit him well. He's not trying to do too much, letting the game come to him a little bit more. He also looks more confident with himself. Perhaps this is Patrik's calling. We shall see if it continues to work for him throughout the year.
This game was not a pretty one by any means. There were 45 total fouls called, resulting in 56 total free throws. But the Hall gutted out a win against a team that was not going to go away. The Pirates used their edge inside, and their general edge in talent, in the second half to break the Spartans' press and get some shots at the rim in transition.
Eventually, Norfolk State had no more answers. The Pirates shot 52% in the second half (despite a 3-12 performance from deep- a good sign indeed) and grabbed as many offensive boards (17) as the Spartans had defensive boards to pull this one out. The overall edge on the boards was 44-31.
We'll learn more about this team this coming weekend. A lot more. In Washington, the Pirates will face their toughest test yet, and if they face Ohio State after that, a tougher test still. Norfolk State tonight represented a step up in talent from UMKC, and the competition will be taken up another notch on Saturday at Mohegan Sun. The Pirates responded tonight with a much better effort in the second half. Can they do the same against high-major competition?