Initial post game thoughts:
-There it is. It only took the Seton Hall Pirates (12-6, 3-4) three weeks to record their first marquee victory of the season, however, a marquee victory it was. Defeating the 9th ranked Pitt Panthers in Newark places The Hall right in the thick of the Big East standings at 3-4 with a 3 game road trip (USF, Nova, Pitt) looming. Seton Hall was able to take care of a Pittsburgh team that was previously unbeaten at their true road games. After falling to GTown at home on Wednesday, the Panthers other two "road" losses took place at neutral sites.
-Maybe Jeremy Hazell's quick 3 fouls in the first were a blessing in disguise. With Hazell on the bench for the majority of the game (after picking up his 4th just 6 seconds into the 2nd half) the Pirates put together another complete game. Back-to-back wins and back-to-back impressive performances for a Seton Hall team whose back was completely backed into a corner just 5 days ago.
Hazell only played 16 minutes and finished with 9PTS/REB on 4-of-8 shooting. It looks like this team is capable of stringing together victories even if Hazell has an off night. The deciding factor lies in Hazell's hands, literally. If he's having an off-night, will he decide to keep chucking away or get his teammates involved in a more efficient manner? Tonight, there was no option, he was forced to sit and his teammates responded. Against Louisville the Pirates had the best of both worlds, Hazell played efficient and filled up the bucket. If his efficiency stays up and his teammates keep playing like they did today, look out.
-Herb Pope. He's had games with gaudier numbers, however this was by far his most impressive performance of his Seton Hall career. Logging 38 minutes, Pope finished with 19PTS/9REB/3AST/STL/BLK on 8-of-12 shooting. Pope took 3 bad shot attempts tonight, a pair of 18 footers where he attempted to go glass and an airball 3PT attempt. Other than that, Pope was very efficient on offense tonight, looked impressive around the rim, finishing several dunks, but his highlight of the night was a pretty turn around hook that he converted after being fouled in the act. He proceeded to make his throw.
Pope went 3-of-4 from the stripe, but looked like he was competing for an Oscar late in the game to escape a couple of free throws. Fouled with 49 seconds left in the game and the Pirates nursing a 4 point lead, Herb appeared to be on his way to the stripe. After limping away from the foul, Pope hit the deck grabbing his ankle. He worked his way to the sideline and it was up to Jamie Dixon to choose a replacement shooter. Initially choosing JRob, Dixon changed his mind and put JT on the line. Pope, without even receiving a look from a trainer, got up and walked back to the scorers table to check into the game. If it was a creative maneuver to elude the line, it wasn't entirely effective as JT only hit one free throw.
-Theodore played extremely well in the first half, but tapered off a bit in the second, leading to Gonzalez to show trust in his senior Eugene Harvey with many critical possessions late in the game. JT finished with a balanced 5PTS/6AST/3REB/3STL/2TO, while only shooting 1-of-6 from the floor. Theodore missed two critical layups in the final 30 seconds of the game which could have iced the contest for the Pirates. Instead, the Panthers were able to stick around until the very end.
Eugenius, on the other hand finished with an equally balanced 9PTS/6STL/4AST/2REB/BLK/2TO, however, Harvey may be the best finishing guard on the roster. Harvey had a bit of trouble finishing early in his career, however this season, he's been penetrating successfully finding the rim and finishing strong more often than not. Harvey finished on 4-of-7 shooting and two of his misses were 3PT attempts, so despite his turnover problems this season, it's hard to argue that he hasn't been smart within his own shot selection.
The third point guard in the equation, Keon Lawrence, continues to shoot poorly. Lawrence finished with 2PTS/2REB/2BLK/AST/2TO on an awful, 1-of-7 from the field.
-I'd split a game ball between Herb Pope and Jeff Robinson tonight, as JRob continues to put together impressive performances tallying 15PTS/3REB/2AST/BLK on smart shot selection (5-of-8) tonight. He didn't even attempt a 3PT shot! Possessions are too important to waste on such bad attempts and JRob has shown an improvement in his shot selection over the last 4 games, not including the sole lapse against Louisville.
-The Panthers out rebounded the Pirates to the tune of 33-23, however, this game was decided by turnovers. The Pirates frustrated Pittsburgh, stealing the ball 13 times and forcing 20 turnovers. Seton Hall proved to be the smarter and more disciplined team only turning the ball over 10 times throughout the course of the game.
-Bobby Gonzalez tightened up his rotation against Louisville and stayed true to form tonight in a rare showing of consistency as he also wheeled out the same starting 5 that received the nod against the Cardinals. The tightened rotation proved to be effective again as only 5 players received more than 17 minutes of playing time. Pope and Robinson led the pack with 38MP and 32MP respectively, as Garcia only saw 3MP and Ferrakohn Hall received a DNP after logging 1 minute against Louisville.
-The Pirates proved they could win without hitting their 3PT shot attempts as they only converted at a rate of 2-of-13 from long distance, but still out shot the Panthers on the floor, 45% to 35%. The Pirates continue to hold their own at the charity stripe, hitting 12-of-15 tonight.
-All in all, the Pirates put forth their best effort of the season and one of the best in the Bobby Gonzalez era. At 3-4 in the Big East, Seton Hall finds themselves in a log jam, just one game back of 6th place in the conference. Here we go.
... Much more in tomorrow's Day After Post