Boy, did that sting. Badly.
Losing to Rutgers is never an acceptable thing in Pirate Land, but losing on Senior Night in front of a packed house in agonizing fashion when you're trying to make the postseason is devastating. Oh, and that's not to mention the atrocious foul call on Herb Pope in the final minute of OT that led to the game-winning shot. But I digress.
Here are the 5 Thoughts from a near-impossible pill to swallow:
- Down the Stretch
With the game tied in overtime thanks to some heroics by Jordan Theodore (a step-back three when the Pirates were down 5) and Herb Pope (who was in the right place at the right time when Gilvydas Biruta inexplicably saved a ball that was going out of bounds under his own basket), Theodore and Edwin teamed up to tie up Eli Carter on a drive, a huge defensive play that gave the Pirates the ball and a chance to take a lead with under a minute left. Theodore brought the ball up, under control as he had been all game. Pope came to the area between the circles and set a screen on the man defending Theodore, Jerome Seagears. He was stationary. His feet were shoulder width apart. Seagears flopped. Pope was called for the personal.
Due to our broadcast angle, I couldn't see whether or not the screen was completely legal. On the replay, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that it was. Seagears knew a screen was coming- it had come all night long. He went down, sporting good gamesmanship. But that foul, in that situation, in that game, should NEVER have been called.
After that, Rutgers ran their offense, and the Pirates defended very well, until Seagears fell down on the baseline after running into his own man, Dane Miller. Aaron Cosby was defending Seagears man-on-man, and after Seagears fell down, Cosby let his mind wander for just a half-second, if that. In that time, Seagears got up, cut to the corner, got the pass, set his feet, and made the game-winning shot over Cosby's outstretched arm. Give all the credit in the world to Seagears for making the shot and not giving up after he went down, but you have to wonder if Seagears hadn't tripped over his own man, what would have happened on that possession.
- No Blame Game
This was an extremely tough game that was well-played by both sides. It was physical from the opening tip, it was exciting, and after what transpired, there is no one for Pirate fans to pin the loss onto. Not one person or coach or referee. Rutgers made more plays, made more shots, than the Pirates did. Sound familiar? It's what Seton Hall did at the RAC a few weeks ago. The statistics were great on both sides, with Dane Miller taking home the MVP after what was by far his best game of the season. It stings like hell for me to have witnessed that in what was my last home game at the Rock (being a senior and all), and it will sting until the two teams meet again, but anyone who tries to pin this loss on anything other than Rutgers simply being better yesterday is ignoring the facts and the game that occurred in front of them.
- Record Watch
Theodore, with 17 PTS, 9 AST, and just 1 turnover, had a good game, and his three point attempt to tie the game was halfway down before it popped out. I wouldn't have had anyone else take that shot. His 9 AST tied the single season record held by Golden Sunkett for nearly 40 years, a remarkable feat.
Fuquan Edwin had slipped to second in the nation in steals, just behing Jay Threatt of Delaware State, before exploding for 7 STL against Rutgers. That not only gave him the lead again, but it tied Paul Gause's single season record in STL.
- Supporting Cast
When I say the Rock was jam-packed, I mean it. The announced attendance of 10,945 set a new record for Seton Hall attendance at the Prudential Center, and it was the most impressive crowd I've seen at home. The student section was rocking and engaged the entire time, the crowd got loud- REALLY loud- and it was so great to see after so many years. A+++ for the fans.
- Final Countdown
As of today, Joe Lunardi still has Seton Hall in the Tournament, but this loss puts a big dent in the hopes for the Dance. The Pirates face a must-win situation at DePaul next Saturday, a game I'll be calling on WSOU, and following that, the Pirates will need to win a game at Madison Square Garden at the Big East Tournament, perhaps two depending on the state of the bubble at the time. What's helping the Pirates is that so few bubble teams are taking care of business right now. Seton Hall needs to avoid being in that category. DePaul is tough on their home floor, and a full preview will be up next week.