In a game that the Seton Hall Pirates (11-6, 2-4) absolutely needed, Bobby Gonzalez tightened his rotation, Jordan Theodore emerged as the floor general and Jeremy Hazell put forth his most efficient game of the season. The result? An 80-77 victory over the Louisville Cardinals (12-7, 3-3) keeping slim hope of postseason play alive for the Pirates. There's hope for at least another day, rather, another two days, until Seton Hall takes on Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon when the Pirates welcome the Panthers in another must-win. You might be asking, why is it a must-win? Aren't they coming off a nice win over Louisville? Indeed they are, but the team needs to build off of the victory against the Cardinals, riding the momentum to reel off a few wins in a row. Do that and they'll find themselves back in the middle of the Big East standings and legitimately alive for postseason play.
Leading by 7 with 1:35 left in the game, the Pirates allowed an easy Preston Knowles offensive rebound and subsequent tip-in to fall, which pulled the Cardinals within 5. Madness ensued. Eugene Harvey seemed to throw the next possession right into the arms of Edgar Sosa, who converted another open layup. With the lead cut to 3 points and 82 seconds on the clock, Gonzo used another timeout as Pirates fans everywhere muttered, "this isn't happening. Again." Yet, it was
SHU Athletics pretends the controversial in-bounds play never happened, can't blame em' :
Louisville raced down the floor and found Jerry Smith open on the right wing for three, who drilled the shot with two seconds on the clock, but the Pirates were able to inbound the ball successfully to hold on for the victory. Seton Hall shot 52.7 percent from the floor, and 41.7 percent from three-point land (5-of-12). The Cardinals bench outscored the Pirates reserves, 33-8.
It's one thing to pretend it never happened, but to report, "inbound the ball successfully?" That in-bounds pass was anything but successful. The Pirates caught a serious break, but hey, we're allowed one once in a while.
Louisville Athletics didn't report on the controversial in-bounds play either, yet, they didn't stop short of crying for a technical foul on Jeremy Hazell:
Keon Lawrence had the ball in the frontcourt when Sosa intercepted a lazy pass toward the foul line. The guard took off for what appeared would be a fast break that would cut the lead to a point. However, Lawrence hustled back and blocked the shot and Theodore eventually got the loose ball and found Hazell for a dunk all alone, a play on which he was lucky the officials didn't call a technical foul for hanging on the rim with 34.7 seconds to play.
In all reality, it probably should have been a technical. However, if the refs were going to call a T on Hazell, they would have had to also call a technical on Pitino, who ran out of the coaches box by a modest 25 feet following the in-bounds incident. I'm glad they didn't call a technical on either and let the game play out, I didn't like seeing the game end in a controversial fashion, but I'm glad it didn't turn into technical city in the final 10 seconds of the game. With that being said, I'm still rather confident that I wasn't the only one who was yelling at their television for Hazell to release from the rim.
Doris Burke and Dave Pasch, who called the game for ESPN give their take on the bizarre ending:
Chalk up the game as another lesson learned for the Pirates writes Brendan Prunty of The Star-Ledger:
"Guys kind of got a little complacent and started going 1-on-1," forward Herb Pope said of the game’s final minutes. "Coach had to pull us back and talk about what got us our success." Seton Hall made enough free throws, hitting 3-of-6 in the final 20 seconds, to keep Louisville at bay. But on an inbounds play with under two seconds remaining, things got even more interesting.
Prunty also breaks down, "the in-bounds incident" with an explanation from Gonzo:
"Keon said he wanted to get it out of bounds as soon as possible so the clock would run down," Gonzalez said. "They said there was some kind of inadvertent whistle. I think a whistle blew that wasn’t supposed to blow, which kind of hurt us because now we’ve got to get it inbounds again. So I don’t know what happened."
I understand if there was an inadvertent whistle, causing Keon to step over the baseline to walk back to his bench. What isn't clear is Keon's intention when stepping over the baseline. He never lifts up his head or releases control of the ball, instead he takes a a full step over the line as if he's stepping into a standard bounce-pass. After the referee reset the ball, the initial in-bounds pass was swatted away from a Louisville defender. Upon receiving the ball after the deflection, Lawrence appears to shuffle his feet on the baseline, another uncalled violation. I don't want to hear the Pirates don't get calls as we received two big breaks on one controversial play.
How must the Pirates finish to make the tournament? Prior to the Louisville victory, I predicted they'd need to go 11-2 or at least 10-3 in their final 13 games. Adam Zagoria of SNY believes they can get in with an 8-4 mark the rest of the way:
Still, Seton Hall (11-6, 2-4) can now claim quality wins over Cornell, Cincinnati and Louisville (12-7, 3-3), with a terrific opportunity coming on Sunday against No. 9 Pittsburgh when the rest of the New York metropolitan area will be focused on the Jets-Colts AFC Championship game. Assuming Seton Hall needs 20 wins to make the Big Dance, they would have to go 8-4 through the final 12 conference games to finish 19-10 and then add at least one Big East tournament victory. Obviously, if they go 7-5 and finish 9-9 in the league (and 18-11 overall), they would need to make a run at the Garden. For now, the Pirates are happy to have escaped this one.
Follow the jump for more reactions from: NorthJersey.com, Courier-Journal, CHN, Eamonn Brennan, NBE, Paul Tyahla, Prunty on Big Mel and stress in D-1 coaching gigs.
In a sink of swim game, the Pirates emerged with their heads above water writes John Rowe of NorthJersey.com:
Beating Louisville, 80-77, Thursday night doesn’t guarantee the Pirates a berth in the NCAA tournament, but it does put them in a better frame of mind in anticipation of another top 15 team, Pittsburgh, coming to town Sunday afternoon. A loss might have been the siren call for Seton Hall’s NCAA hopes. Now 11-6 overall and 2-4 in the Big East, the Pirates, who had lost five of their six previous games, played some of their best basketball of the season against the slumping Cardinals, who lost their third game in a row. Seton Hall’s shot selection was improved and its defense, though not Princeton vintage, was more than acceptable.
The Cardinals were one step slower than the Pirates all night long according to CL Brown of Courier-Journal:
The Cards were slow with their feet defending Seton Hall's new three-guard lineup, which coach Bobby Gonzalez used specifically to get quicker. They were slow to rotate when those Pirates guards drove past the first defender. They were slow to play with a sense of urgency. The Cards' flurry in the game's final five minutes nearly brought them all the way back from a 72-59 deficit, but they stopped short at 79-77.
Raphielle Johnson of College Hoops Net takes note of Jeremy Hazell's efficiency in his performance Thursday night:
A more efficient Jeremy Hazell leads Seton Hall to a win over Louisville. Watching the junior guard from Harlem could be one of the more fascinating things to do in college basketball due to his shot-making ability and range. But a more "boring" Jeremy Hazell could prove to be just the ticket for the Pirates as they hope to make a run in the Big East. Jeremy attempted just twelve shots last night but made nine on his way to 25 points in the Pirates' 80-77 win over the Cardinals at the Prudential Center.
Raphielle couldn't be any more spot on. A, "boring" Hazell is indeed the ticket to not only a run, but NCAA tournament consideration. Seriously. If Hazell plays like he did Thursday night, there's very few games the Pirates will lose. Yes, they only beat an unranked Louisville team by 3 points, but consider Seton Hall's meltdown and nearly epic collapse in the final 90 seconds. That won't happen every day, if it does, this discussion is irrelevant, but, that's a topic for another day.
Eamonn Brennan of ESPN, recaps the Seton Hall victory in his morning-after post:
Louisville might as well have played on Wednesday night, as the Cardinals lost for the third time in a row for the first time since 2005-06. If that seems confusing, it's not just the awkward phrase. That's how good Louisville has been in the Big East for the past three years, and in 2009-10, for whatever reason, the Cardinals are managing to post efficient statistics and numbers and still look utterly mediocre in the win column. That's what's most confusing: Why isn't this Louisville team better? Or, more precisely, why isn't this Louisville team, which appears on paper to be one of the best four or five teams in the Big East, so apparently unable to turn that efficient profile into wins?
NBE Basketball Reportprovides reactions from both head coaches in their game recap:
"By the fact that they beat Cornell on the road, and the fact they had West Virginia in overtime I see that their very much improved," Pitino said. "They do a lot of good things and they’re really good off of the bounce, which makes them very difficult in both zone and man."
The end of game execution is an area of concern, but after coming close in early games against Syracuse, West Virginia and Connecticut, coach Gonzalez was pleased they could pull it out.
"We didn’t do a great job in special situations at the end of the game and it got a little shaky," said Gonzalez. "Even though I wasn’t happy it happened, I thought it was pretty good for us because we pulled it out and it was a great win for us."
The atmosphere last night at the Rock was by far the best showing of the season for the Pirate faithful. Paul V. Tyahla of Pirate's Plank loved the new additions:
Atmosphere: Great job by the school last night. We loved the student section extending to the sideline, the rally towels and the Cage the Cardinals t-shirts. Even bigger kudos go to the student section, which was described as "beyond sold out", for the turnout and energy. Can’t say the same about the alums.
After struggling — and failing — to qualify academically last season as a freshman, Oliver wasn’t able to be with the team. Instead he had to sit in the stands behind the team bench and watch the team he was supposed to be a part of. Then prior to the season, he made the grade and was expected to be a role player off the bench for Seton Hall while getting his feet wet. That lasted all of three games this season.
Prior to the Pirates’ Nov. 28 games against Long Island, Oliver was "temporarily removed" from the team for academic reasons. He sat out three games before returning and beginning to make a minor dent in the Pirates’ rotation. So when Big East play started, it looked like "Big Mel" would play a big part. He hasn’t.
Jim Calhoun's medical leave of absence prompted Phil Chardis to pen an article on stress among Divison-1 coaches. Of course, he spoke to Bobby Gonzalez:
Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez clearly looks to be a Type A personality, meaning stress is not only inevitable, but more intense. "I haven’t had a health issue so far, but I’m not nearly close to doing it as many years as a guy like Coach Calhoun," Gonzalez said. "Certainly the way I was working when I was at Manhattan (1999-2006), it was probably bordering on maniacal and if I didn’t change a little bit, I probably would have a health issue by now. "My wife and I having a baby helped, in terms of bringing some perspective, and trying to have some outlets here and there, whether it be to go to a movie, or read a book, or take a break. I think I have a better chance of doing that than I used to."
Seton Hall is next in action Sunday afternoon at 2:00PM taking on the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Rock.