If the Seton Hall Pirates (20-11, 9-10) miss the NCAA Tournament this year, they'll be just the 6th Big East team out of 153 to do so after winning 20 contests. After falling behind 9-0 in the first 5 minutes of the game, Seton Hall swung back and took the legs out of the Friars, delivering an early knockout en route to a 79-47 first round laugher Tuesday night. Rebounding from one of his worst performances of the season at DePaul, Jordan Theodore may have just tuned in his best. Not of the year, but the best of his Seton Hall career. In the biggest game of his life, a literal, 'win-or-end your collegiate career' scenario, Theodore DAZZLED under the Madison Square Garden lights.
The senior point guard declared he would have the Pirates ready for Tuesday night and ONCE AGAIN, backed up his words. Earlier in the season, Theodore made a similar guarantee before leading the Pirates to a road win at Piscataway. JT set a new career high in assists and finished one shy of the Big East Tournament record, dishing out 13 dimes versus just one turnover. Theo also made good on 5-of-11 from the floor to finish his night with 13 points and 4 rebounds.
His teammates fed off his energy and hustle throughout the night, the Captain even took his patented on the ball charge with 8 minutes left and Seton Hall leading by TWENTY-THREE! His effort was contagious, the Seton Hall defensive rotations were crisp late in the ballgame, even in the midst of a blow-out. Obviously, all good signs for a team that will possibly play multiple back-to-back games in this tournament setting. What a difference from the effort at DePaul, they showed up at the Garden FOCUSED. Prior to the game, I noted that we would need to see the Jordan Theodore that willed the Pirates to victories over RU and PU one month ago if they wanted to advance in the BET. Instead, we got a leader who refused to play his last basketball game for our Seton Hall Pirates. One week after falling on his face in Chicago, Theodore defined perfection in Manhattan.
Trailing 9-0 early, Fuquan Edwin stopped the bleeding hitting a three and sparking a 21-3 Seton Hall run, en route to closing out the half with a 36-14 advantage over the final 15 minutes. Brandon Mobley was pivotal in the Pirates turnaround, hitting his first 5 FG attempts to lead all scorers (tied with Pope) with 16 points and 9 rebounds. I'd be surprised if Mobley didn't regain his starting nod after he was forced into early action due to Patrik Auda's (11pts/4reb) foul trouble. I've always been a believer of starting your best 5 players and in this setting, it's absolutely necessary. We can't get off to another slow start tomorrow, (apologize for flashbacks of UL, last year), or we may not be able to recover.
The flu and a 103-degree fever earlier in the day wouldn't be enough to keep fellow freshman, Aaron Cosby out of action tonight. Cos' came off the bench to sink two big 3-pointers for the Pirates in the first half, his first make tied the game at 11, his second extended the Pirates lead to 19-11. He wouldn't score the rest of the way as he only logged 17 minutes, but he left his mark on the game when the Pirates started to pull away. Hopefully he feels better tomorrow and is able to give a few additional minutes against Louisville. Starting for Cosby, Haralds Karlis added 3 points in 29 minutes, but to be fair, his offense wasn't exactly needed, he played well defensively and also recorded a steal.
Fresh off being robbed for Big East defensive player of the year, Fuquan Edwin turned in another outstanding and stat-filled performance contributing 12 points to go along with his 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals and 2 assists. Herb Pope was also efficient on offense this evening, hitting 6-of-10 from the field on his way to 16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks. Turf toe and all, Pope went to the rim as hard as we've seen him all season. Despite getting into a bit of foul trouble early, he played smart basketball over the course of the final 30 minutes and was able to record 24 minutes of action tonight despite the foul trouble and toe injury. This team will only go as far as Theodore and Pope can take them and when Herb's getting the ball inside and getting off clean looks, the team will find themselves in position to win a few here at MSG.
Well, Rick Pitino has declared the Seton Hall Pirates "IN," so, there's that. Lunardi, Palm, all of us, Jay Williams and his eye test, should just relax and breath easy for the rest of the week. Ok, not quite. The Pirates are not in the clear as of yet, but they're a hell of a lot closer than they were a few hours ago. Literally speaking, their RPI has jumped from 60 before the game, to 53 afterwards. As I mentioned during the game, this team has responded best with their backs against the wall and they've faltered when confidence has been highest. By the time this post is published, hopefully the team has finished tonight's celebration and started their game preparation in advance of Louisville. Heads down, remain focused and just win one more and there will be time to celebrate later this week. On Sunday evening.