That was close.
Rhode Island, as expected, gave the Pirates one heck of a fight. Thanks to the Rams suddenly-hot shooting, it was almost more than that.
But the Pirates made the plays down the stretch that they needed to make, and Tom Maayan's enormous steal off Mike Powell (and- let's not underestimate the importance of this- the ensuing TWO FREE THROWS) sent the Rams home winless from Uncasville.
Here are the 5 thoughts:
- Comeback trail
Seton Hall closed the game on a 14-1 run over the last three and a half minutes. It started with a harmless offensive board off a missed three that led to a made three by Aaron Cosby.
The Pirates would miss just once more the rest of the way, going 2-3 from the floor (including a monumental three from Kyle Smyth- more on him in a second) and SIX OF SIX FROM THE FREE THROW LINE. Those free throws were huge- Rhode Island was in the bonus for more than half of the second stanza (more on that later as well), and you knew it was going to come down to free throws just like it always seems to for Seton Hall.
The Pirates sunk all of them this time, and combined with two huge defensive stops, it was enough to halt Dan Hurley's club at the doorstep of victory.
- Big "D"
The effort coming out of the gate for Seton Hall was less than overwhelming. But the Pirates snapped into gear just in time. After Powell's layup at the 10:38 mark in the second half, the Pirate D would allow only one more made basket to URI the rest of the way.
In addition, the Rams had a knack for ripping Pirate Nation's hearts out with contested makes with the shot clock running out. I was pulling my hair out with each successive bucket. In fact, the last of these baskets was a contested long two-pointer by Ryan Brooks- the last basket URI would make in the game.
Well, down the stretch, the Pirates forced two shot clock violations, the biggest one when Kyle Smyth hounded the shooter in front of his own bench and remained straight up as the three (which was late anyway) was launched. Oh, and the steal happened. That too.
All told, the Pirates held URI to 38% shooting in the second half compared to 48% in the first.
With all the late drama, Gene Teague's career night was overshadowed. The big man hit for a career-high 21 PTS along with 9 REB (including half of the Pirates' 8 offensive boards), and it was fitting because the Rams had absolutely no answer for him personnel-wise. The only chance they had- shot-blocker Jordan Hare- was in foul trouble the entire night.
The presence of Teague down low was huge- he was able to score at will against the Rams' smaller front line. The reason the game was as close as it ended up being was that the kickouts to potentially open shooters just were not there. The Rams' strategy (since Hurley likely knew that he couldn't match up with Teague) was to deny such passes to the perimeter once Teague did catch in the post. It worked tonight, so give the former Pirate credit for that.
But that meant big things for Big Gene. Just like the threes against Washington in the first half, the Pirates would have been rudderless in a tempest without Teague in the first half against Rhode Island.
- Energy Investments
Perhaps it was the whale of an effort the Pirates put forth in the second half against Washington, perhaps it was a little bit of road-weariness. After all, this was the first non-home stretch of the season for The Hall. But Rhode Island out-hustled Seton Hall for much of this game, and it was compounded by some hot outside shooting. Against a more highly talented opponent, that might have been it for the Pirates.
My hunch is that it was a little bit of both. I think some home cooking on this upcoming week of Thanksgiving will do the Pirates some good. If the problem persists, then we'll revisit things, but I wouldn't worry about it too much for now.
- Free! Free! Free!
Like a Joseph A. Bank advertisement, the Pirates had a lot of free things coming their way tonight due to the constant foul trouble URI found themselves in. Seton Hall's 77% performance from the line, including 16-19 in the second half alone, is one major stat in the box score you can point to as the reason the Pirates won. If the Pirates had strayed towards their season percentage coming in (56%), they would have lost by 5 or more.
As the saying goes, free throws are free for a reason.
For the first 35 minutes of the game, it looked like it was one that Seton Hall would not be able to pull out of its hat. Some key last-minute plays saved the Hall from themselves, and removed what would have been a bad loss from the resume. Now the Pirates play host to Maine and always-tough St. Peter's before their next road test in Baton Rouge.
Hazard Zet Forward!