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The Morning After: Heart and Fight on Display, Need the Knock Out Punch

Looking past stats, specifically, missed free throws, layups and 3PT attempts, two things stood out in the Pirates loss to West Virginia, heart and fight.  I don't believe in moral victories, in fact, I don't think think last night's game should be considered one for those who do believe in them.  Instead, what we saw was tremendous heart, toughness and the refusal to give up from a Bobby Gonzalez coached team, who fought the 6th ranked Mountaineers until the very end.

Down 10 points with 56 seconds left, how many teams have the awareness to remain focused, realistically believing they can come back?  Believe it or not, many teams have a tendency to mentally check out in that situation.

How many teams mail it in down double digits with less than a minute remaining, launching bad shots and playing lackluster defense?  How many coaches call their players off from fouling, down 10 with 50 seconds remaining?

It's happens quite often.

With their backs against the ropes and one leg wobbling towards the canvas, the Pirates fought.  Beaten and bruised badly, Eugene Harvey came through at the free throw stripe, bringing the deficit to 8 points with 48 seconds to go.  After a missed front end of a one-and-one, it was the senior who converted a layup, pulling his team within two scores with 32 ticks on the clock.  Another failed one-and-one and it was Ferrakohn Hall converting a dunk, closing the gap to 4 points.  Gonzalez persistence of the full court press caused a turnover and from there, Jeremy Hazell put his team on his back in crunch time.

Remember those words, heart and fight? How many players have the confidence to call for the ball with the game on the line after a 2-of-14 3PT shooting night? Hazell did exactly that, calming drilling a 3PT with 14 seconds on the clock, forcing WVU to call a time out.  After Da'Sean Butler made two clutch free throws, extending the lead to 3 points with 13 seconds remaining, everyone at the Rock knew who was going to get the touch. 

All stats pertaining to Hazell's poor shooting were about to be thrown out the window for the remaining 13 seconds.  They didn't matter to the fans, (ok, well they shouldn't have at the time) to the Pirates, or to WVU, everyone knew the ball would be finding Hazell, despite his 3-of-15 3PT shooting.  He just sank his last attempt, why wouldn't he get the ball again? Has he ever met a shot he didn't like? Sure enough, curling wide around a screen, Hazell would need to create extra room to compensate for the tight defense.  Creating extra room was an understatement, stepping out to 28 feet to get a clear look, and chucking in typical Hazell fashion, the result? Bottoms.

After poorly managing the final six seconds to the tune of an awful 3PT shot attempt by Devin Ebanks the Mountaineers were shocked that the Pirates had just taken them to overtime.  In overtime, the magic ran out as the Pirates could only string together 7 points, falling to WVU by the score of 90-84, but a valiant effort was in the books.  While there isn't a such thing as a moral victory, especially in March, it's rare that you see a team show the amount of fight and heart that the Pirates put on display last night, applaud them.  

The Pirates were knocked down in the 12th round, but used everything they had to stand for the last minute of fight.  They responded by not only punching back, but securing a knock down of their own, stunning WVU at the end of regulation.  Against Syracuse on Tuesday, the Pirates will need more than heart and fight, they'll need to add a knock out punch to their repertoire.  They've got two days to find it, go get em, Pirates.

SHU Athletics describes Hazell's game tying shot in questionable fashion:
With eight seconds showing, Hazell received a pass from Harvey at the top of the key and drilled a 40-foot trifecta to even the score, 77-77. The Mountaineers' Devin Ebanks missed a look from the right wing beyond three-point range, forcing the extra frame.
40-foot trifecta, huh? I thought I had greatly exaggerated the shot, with my tweet of: 
GonzoBall: JEREMY HAZELL ARE YOU KDDING ME FROM 35 FEET! Sends it to OT baby. CHRISTMAS MIRACLE BREWING!! #SHBB #WVU
It might have been 30 feet, it MIGHT have been 32 feet, but no way was it 40 feet. 

WVU Athletics, by way of MNS Sports Net:
"We've been talking about trying to finish people off and not letting people up," coach Bob Huggins said. "We did a heck of a job early in the game, made shots and defended well. It's hard to understand. We kind of let them back in, and I just told them the biggest disappointment in this team is we have not made the scouting the most important thing. We have not made it that important."
The Pirates aren't believers in "moral victories" writes Brendan Prunty of the Star-Ledger:
"You don’t want to call this a moral victory," Seton Hall point guard Jordan Theodore said afterward. "It’s an ‘L.’ We took this loss and we’re going to wear it. We’re going to take the ‘L’ and we’re going to respond."

In previous years, losing by six at home in overtime to a team in the top 10 might have been enough to satisfy Seton Hall. Take a peek at the scoreboard, mumble something about "We’ll get ‘em next time," call it a day and hope that the NIT selection committee is wowed by it.

Not this year. Not when Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez is gunning for what he calls, "the bigger tournament."
Prunty's Q&A's, suicides and game balls.  Hazell and Ebanks both checked in on his list:
GAME BALLS
Jeremy Hazell (41 pts., 7 reb.): A simply tremendous performance when the Pirates needed it most. Sure, the 3-point number were a bit ugly (4-for-19), but he hit two in the final 17 seconds — including the game-tier — which were huge.
Seton Hall ball-handling: Completely overlooked in this one was the fact that the Pirates turned the ball over only six times Saturday. Against a team that gets hands into the passing lanes like the Mountaineers, that's very impressive.
Devin Ebanks (22 pts., 17 reb., 7 ast., 0 TOs): Let's just say this — the 16 NBA scouts who were in attendance Saturday were getting their money's worth.
J.P. Pelzman, of The Record, looks at a change in tempo that the Pirates will need to utilize if they're going to start beating upper-echelon Big East teams:
Bobby Gonzalez’s persona is fast-paced, frenetic and decidedly up-tempo. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that his Seton Hall teams have taken on his personality, and seem to function at their best in those situations.

But Gonzo would be the first to admit that he can’t pull off mellow very well. So is it any wonder that his Pirates aren’t very good at it either?
The Pirates will be a heck of a team, they just aren't there yet, writes John Rowe of The Record:
"It’s a tough game to swallow," said Harvey, mindful that another unbeaten team, No. 5 Syracuse, is headed here Tuesday night.

Gonzalez was upbeat about the future, insisting that the Pirates had sent a message that they’re going to be a heck of a team.
But not just yet.

"It’s still a loss," said Gonzalez.

And the glass, for now, is more empty than full.
Seton Hall is next in action at home on Tuesday night, taking on 5th ranked Syracuse.