Seton Hall won their first NIT game in nearly 56 years on Tuesday night, defeating Stony Brook 63-61, to draw UMass at Walsh Gymnasium in the second round. With 59 seconds remaining in regulation and the Pirates leading by two, Seton Hall had little desire to execute a two-for-one possession and were forced into a well-defended Theodore jumper with 19 seconds remaining. Stony Brook ripped down the rebound as the ball clanked off the rim and called timeout to set up the final possession.
Everyone watching was aware of Stony Brook's one intention - get the ball to Bryan Dougher (12pts/5reb/3ast) for the game winning 3-point attempt. Sure enough, Dougher took the ball at the top of the key, but took most of the air out of the clock before passing to the wing, receiving the return pass at the top and firing a 28-footer. I was certain the shot was going to fall as Dougher's range is incredible, having hit 4 deep ones earlier in the night. Fortunately, the shot attempt missed badly, but a failed Pirates box out left Tommy Brenton (13 rebounds) wide open for a tip-in. Luckily, the attempt didn't find the net and the Pirates survived.
The Pirates opened the game FULL of energy against a visibly intimidated Seawolves team, building a 12-2 lead over the first 9 minutes. Fuquan Edwin (4pts/6stl) recorded FIVE steals in the first ten minutes and the Pirates had Stony Brook on the ropes before they could even record their second field goal of the game. The 'wolves refused to lay and die, answering Seton Hall's 12-0 run with a 16-8 run of their own as the Pirates once inspired play quickly turned flat. With a ball game on their hands, the two teams traded buckets culminating with Pope and Rouse hitting from distance in the closing seconds to give Seton Hall a slim 32-30 cushion at the break.
If Stony Brook fans have a gripe with this ballgame, it's a legitimate one. With the Wolves trailing by 5, and 8 minutes remaining in the game, their starting point guard Dave Coley drove and extended his arm into Theodore and was called for his fourth foul. When he realized he didn't receive the block he was expecting, he waved one hands at the officials and turned his back. The zebras called a technical foul on what I assume, was deemed a, "demonstrative" expression, which accounted for Coley's 5th, fouling him out. The officials have to look the other way in that situation, unless Coley said something extreme that we're not aware of, the refs made an absolutely horrendous call there. Taking anyone's starting PG out of the game with 8 minutes to go in a tournament setting will severely cripple a team, however, the 'Wolves were able to adjust and take this one to the wire.
As has been the case for the majority of the season, the Pirates were led by monster stat-lines from their seniors Jordan Theodore (21pts/6ast/3reb/3stl) and Herb Pope (20pts/9reb/4stl/4blk) who combined for an efficient 15-of-27 from the floor. For large stretches of the night, it appeared as the two seniors were the only Pirates interested in extending their season as they received little help from their teammates. Luckily, Aaron Cosby recovered from the flu and his 0-for-7 shooting night against Louisville to contribute 10 points and added two triples, which will surely help the shooter's confidence going forward.
The Pirates escaped this evening despite not putting forth anything resembling a great effort, but the old adage stands, a win is a win. Although they were abused and nearly doubled up (42-22) on the glass, they relied on their seniors to extend their season and Theodore and Pope came through offensively. Will the same effort be enough to defeat the Massachusetts Minuteman in round-2 of the NIT? That's unlikely, but it will be the second time these two teams meet this season. The Pirates held a closed-door scrimmage against UMass in early November also at Walsh gym, when the Pirates reportedly hung a 30-spot on them. It goes without saying, we'll have a much closer contest the second time around as the winner will advance to the Quarterfinals and find themselves one game from the Garden.
We'll have much more to come tomorrow on SOJ with JP's 5 thoughts.