Season: Saved, for now.
The Pirates collectively shook of their cold-shooting ways, dispatched their archrivals from New Brunswick in dramatic fashion (it's always dramatic between Seton Hall and Rutgers), and kept their hopes of the Big Dance alive for a few more days. It was absolutely necessary that the Pirates snap the losing streak at the RAC, and that's just what they did.
Here are the 5 Thoughts from Seton Hall's big win:
- Senior Leadership
There truly is no substitute for it. Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope put this team on their backs and willed them to victory. Theodore, despite some instances of out-of-control play, was amazing when the Pirates sorely needed it. His 24 PTS were two off his career-high (8-15 FG, 7-8 FT), his defense was fantastic as usual (3 STL), and although he only finished with 3 AST, that was due to some missed shots off his very, very good passing last night.
Pope was equally strong. He was focused, clearly amped up by the atmosphere, and he didn't force anything, taking only 9 shots (making 5) while finishing with 12 PTS and 12 REB. He did get into some early foul trouble, but it didn't faze him one bit. He set solid screens for Theodore/Wilson, etc..., contributed to the solid Pirate defense (more on that later), and (arguably the best thing he did all night) HIT A THREE. And not just any three- a momentum-shifting, crowd-silencing three right after the huge technical foul fiasco and the Dane Miller three that gave Rutgers the lead.
Unbelievable job by both seniors. The Pirates last night looked more like the team that started 15-2 than the team that had lost 6 in a row, and the majority of the credit has to be thrown their way.
- Frosh? By Gosh!
The seniors had some big help from the freshman starting duo of Brandon Mobley and Aaron Cosby in this game. Mobley grabbed 10 REB and had 3 AST, but only scored 3 PTS. That does not tell the story of Mobley's night. The forward was tremendous down low for the Pirates, seemingly grabbing every big rebound, and playing astute defense on the Rutgers bigs and in the matchup zone. He brought energy, length, and toughness, all things that are needed in rivalry games like this.
As for Cosby? Well, he hit three three-pointers. Each of them was big- his first was an early three that allowed the Pirates to get off to a quick start, his second was the shot that finally allowed the Pirates to get separation in a close game in the second half, but both paled in comparison to the DAGGER he hit from the top of the key over Eli Carter with 40 seconds left that sealed the Scarlet Knights' fate. It was a shot heard 'round the Garden State (off a dish from Mobley, no less), and without Cosby's bombs from deep, Seton Hall doesn't win this game.
Just a small aside to this point- Patrik Auda showed signs of life in this game for the first time in a long time. His line wasn't pretty (2 PTS, 1 REB, 5 TO in 17 minutes), but early in this game, Auda brought the energy and he was being aggressive, more aggressive than he's been since Dayton. It's progress for the Czech forward, and that's a good sign to see.
- Stop Signs Galore
I loved, loved, LOVED watching the Seton Hall defense last night. The matchup zone the Pirates use frustrates young and veteran teams alike, and Rutgers was no exception. Every single shot with the exception of just a couple threes was contested. The Pirates didn't fall for shot fakes by the Rutgers guards, their rotations were impeccable, their collapsing into the paint on drives was fantastic.
All told, Rutgers shot 32% in the game, 29% in the second half, and just 6-23 from deep. Eli Carter and Myles Mack combined for 4-21 shooting, 2-13 from deep, 16 PTS, 1 AST and 5 TOs. Fuquan Edwin, the Pirates' best defender, wreaked havoc off the ball, forcing 4 STL to go along with 9 PTS and 9 REB. In fact, the Pirates' starting frontcourt of Mobley, Edwin and Pope collectively outrebounded the entire Rutgers TEAM 31-30. Mission Accomplished.
- Jersey Pride
There was a scrum heading into the final media timeout involving Herb Pope and Eli Carter. Pope gave Carter a little nudge from behind (nothing out of the ordinary in a rivalry game like this), Carter took objection, Pope head-butted Carter (but not terribly hard), Carter shoved Pope (also not terribly hard), and Pope flopped backward to cause both coaches and teams to gather near midcourt. After the scrum was over, technicals were given to Pope and Carter, as well as Brandon Mobley (what he did to deserve one, I'll never know).
The final score may be ugly to those outside the rivalry, but in reality that sequence is commonplace in this series. This was a typical, physical Seton Hall-Rutgers game. Both teams played hard, there were many turnovers, usually off of good defensive plays by the two teams rather than dumb passes or unforced errors, and the experience of the Pirates won out. I'd expect the final regular season meeting later this month at the Rock to be no different, except for the color of the uniforms.
- Dancing with Panthers
Seton Hall, with this win, keeps alive its NCAA hopes for now. Their next opponent is Pittsburgh, a proud program that has gone through a very tough season. The Panthers saw their comeback chances from an 0-7 Big East start take a big hit with a loss at South Florida (my god, can ANYONE win there?), so they'll be ready to give it their all on Sunday afternoon. We all know Herb Pope saves a little extra something in his trunk for the Panthers, his hometown team, and because of their loss to USF, this game is just as big for Seton Hall. The Pirates need to make this rivalry win count by using it to get on a winning streak again. A full preview will be up here on the Juice on Saturday afternoon.
Until then, Hazard Zet Forward to all. And GOOOOO PIRATES!