-Congratulations to Kevin Willard on his first victory as head coach of the Seton Hall Pirates. Job well done, sir.
-Now that's the basketball Seton Hall fans were expecting to see on Friday. Better late than never.
-It all starts with the defense and the Pirates looked like they got plenty of sleep last night, putting forth a much sharper performance than what we saw in Philadelphia on Friday. From the halftime notes:
-How about the defense? The full-court press absolutely wrecked havoc in the first half, keeping Cornell confused, off-balance and turnover prone. The Pirates trapped the Big Red into committing 9 turnovers in the first half. More than that, they were able to constantly shave seconds off of the Red's shot clock after building a decent lead. The Pirates have been quick in their rotations when pressing, effective with their 2-3 zone and they've been sharply stepping into passing lanes coming up with steals and setting up their fast break on the other end.
Willard's defense was equally impressive in the second half, even without creating as many turnovers, as there wasn't a need to with Cornell trailing big. Coming out of the half, the Pirates got burned early as the Red beat the full court press for an easy transition bucket. Nursing the big lead, Willard began to let up on the press, and started falling back into a zone more often in order to protect getting beat on fast breaks. The strategy payed off as Cornell was never able to threaten the Pirates lead while running their half court offense.
-The freshmen Fuquan Edwin once again made the start at SF and Eniel Polynice didn't check into the game until late in the first half, in fact, he was fourth off the bench. Rather interesting for a player that was generally believed to be our starting SF all off-season leading up to the start of the season. Edwin couldn't find the bucket today finishing 0-for-4 from the floor, but did contribute with 4REB.
-JT, was the most impressive player on the floor in the first half as he quickly tallied 10PTS/5REB/6AST/2STL/TO and looked like he was easily on his way to a triple-double. That all changed in the 2nd half as his line over the final 20 minutes looked like: 2REB/AST/STL/4TO. Keon Lawrence got an extended look at PG and with the big lead, JT may have checked out early in this one. It's a little unsettling to see him go from the best player on a floor making superb decisions, to a PG that looked anything but a floor general in the second half. Still, his first half was too dominant to leave a bad taste in my mouth after today's performance, it's just something to keep an eye on. There's no doubt in my mind that going forward, staying focused for the entire game will not be a problem with this kid.
-Keon Lawrence put forth a respectable effort in 21 minutes, finishing with 7PTS/3REB/3AST/TO on 2-of-5 shooting. Seeing Keon drill a 3PT attempt was a very late, but welcome sight, something that I hope will help get his confidence going a little.
-If you read this site last year under the name Gonzo Ball, you'll remember that we doled out, "Gonzo Balls" for the most impressive Pirate(s) each night. Although we ditched the domain name, we're going to stick out that tradition and today, we're splitting a GB down the middle for both Jeff Robinson and Jeremy Hazell.
-Jeff Robinson, putting it nicely, was atrocious on Friday night. This afternoon? A complete 180, as JRob was dominant. He even began to build his case in making me eat crow this season, by hitting BOTH of his 3PT attempts. In classic, "NO! NO! NO! YES!" moments, he hit bottoms on both attempts this afternoon. Whether that's a good sign for the team going forward, is conversation for another day, right now, I've got to give Jeff props. Outside of Robinson doing his best Reggie Miller, he was a beast in all facets today. JROB finished with the Pirates first double-double of the season with 16PTS/10REB on 5-of-8 shooting and 4-4 from the charity stripe. I believe Jeff even made all of the layups he attempted. Ok, he missed one, but convincingly grabbed his own rebound, attempted the put-back, drew a foul and went to the line to make both his throws.
-Jeremy Hazell was equally as impressive this afternoon, continuing to subtract from the notion that he's only a great 3PT chucker. Hazell showed discipline in his shot selection and penetrated to the tin with authority, finishing a couple impressive dunks over Cornell defenders. He finished his day after playing 28 minutes and recording 28PTS on 8-of-11 shooting and 4-of-6 from 3PT distance. Hazell also converted all 8 of his free throws. If Jeremy can put forth a controlled effort similar to today's consistently throughout the season, the Pirates are going to be extremely difficult to beat.
-Pope took a little while to get going as he was quiet with 4PTs in the first half, but was able to finish with 13PTS/6REB/2STL/BLK in a limited 23 minutes. After seeing Pope knock down two pretty hooks in the first half, it further serves the argument that he has no business shooting 3PT attempts. Like Robinson, he's too talented in every other aspect of the game. Today, Pope took FOUR too many. He did make one, but Herb shooting 25% from 3PT serves no benefit for this team. He's too talented close to the basket to keep putting up these long distance attempts.
And still, Willard seems to be fine with it. Pope and JRob fired at will under Bobby and it looks that Willard has given his big men the green light to shoot as much as they want from behind the arc. It's mind-boggling, but it looks like it's going to continue throughout the season, as it did last year. At least Ferrakohn Hall didn't attempt one today, I guess controlling one of the three bigs is a start.
-Jamel Jackson provided a nice little spark off the bench converting on 2-of-5 of his 3PT attempts. Kid can really shoot it and through two games this season has already shown more consistency than we saw at any point last season. Keep it up JJAX.
-Patrik Auda played 17 minutes and contributed 5REB/2AST/3BLK despite failing to hit a FG. He looked overly amped up early in the game and was hacking his men often, picking up 3PF along the way. Still, he looked capable of filling in at center against a smaller opponent when both Pope and Hall are out of the game.
-Eniel Polynice, who played some 3rd string PG in mop-up time was once again unimpressive finishing with just 3PTS on 1-of-6 shooting, although he did pull down 4 boards.
-Anali Okoloji saw his first 4 minutes of his Pirates career and was unproductive, missing one shot and committing one foul. Darnell Gatling entered the game with Okoloji with 3 and change left to play and was fouled, before making both of his FTs to a well deserved applause from The Rock.
-Aaron Osgood led the Big Red with 19PTS on 5-of-7 shooting, however the kid looked like Dwight Howard on the stripe, bricking 8 of his 16 free throw attempts.
The Pirates only have a few days left in frigid South Orange, NJ before departing for the Virgin Islands where they will face Alabama, next Friday.