The Pirates came down to the US Virgin Islands on a business trip of sorts, and facing a team like Alabama and a coach like Anthony Grant certainly meant that it was all business on Friday night. And the business got done in semi impressive fashion.
The 5 thoughts from Friday's win:
- Hazell the Furnace
We could have honestly said this about just about anyone on either team in the first half, when the shooting percentages were sky-high (50 percent for the Hall, 59 percent for the Tide). But Hazell kept the Pirates in the game in the first half, scoring 19 points, as every Seton Hall fan who was watching could tell from the get-go that Hazell was having one of those nights. And when he has one of those nights, he's unstoppable.
Consider that he scored 27 points on TWELVE shots from the field. If there's a more efficient way to do that, please let me know. He shot 6-12 from the field, 5-6 from deep (4-4 in the first half), and got to the line 16 times, making 10 free throws. Oh, he also had 4 steals for good measure. We can call him a microwave because he can heat up so quickly, but right now, he's a furnace, as he's stayed hot from the very end of the Temple game right up through Friday night. I'll come right out and say it: if he continues to be so efficient, he'll break the scoring record held by Terry Dehere. He's on pace to do it as we speak.
- Transition (Lack of) Defense
Alabama made the game a track meet with their press in the first half, and it absolutely killed the Pirates in transition. Alabama scored 16 fast break points for the game, 12 of these coming in the first half that saw the Pirates down 44-39 at the half. They were just carving the defense up on the break and also in the halfcourt, by (remarkably) hitting threes by the boatload. Now, the Tide couldn't stop the Pirates either, but still, the transition defense has got to improve.
One of the ways to do that is to make shots to eliminate the transitions, and that's just what the Pirates did, shooting 60 percent in the second half. Kudos to Seton Hall for stopping the transitions, even if it was the unorthodox way.
In a game where both teams shot so well from the field, there weren't many rebounds to be had. Nevertheless, Seton Hall was out-rebounded by 10 on the boards, yielding as many offensive rebounds to Alabama as Seton Hall had defensive rebounds in the process. No Pirate finished with more than 4 rebounds, something you don't even see in a video game. I'd reason to wager that they'll need to do a better job against Xavier on Sunday night in the semifinals, if they plan on compiling their 3rd OOC victory.
In fact, the reason the Hall was successful despite giving up a high shooting percentage, 10 threes, 16 fast break points and a +10 rebounding edge was that they were absurdly successful off of Alabama's mistakes, scoring 37 points off of 21 turnovers by the Tide compared to just 11 off 15 Seton Hall turnovers for 'Bama.
- The Ghost of Gonzo
Seton Hall went on a 16-3 run in the second half to turn a 1-point deficit into a 12-point lead with 8:22 to go. Yet, as we often saw last year, with their opponents on the ropes, SHU allowed Alabama to get right back into the mix with an 8-0 run. Let's be honest, last season the Pirates couldn't finish off a close game if their 'NCAA-Tournament' lives depended on it, let alone survive in overtime. This Pirates squad pulled though down the stretch, getting valuable production from Hazell, Jordan Theodore, and Jeff Robinson, who saved the game with a great defensive play, tipping Trevor Releford's lead pass to Hazell for the Tide's 21st and final turnover. The Ghost of Gonzo, as I like to call it, is closer to being exorcised from the team. They finished a close game against a quality opponent on a neutral court. And that's progress.
- Crowd presence
Give the booster club credit, the Pirate faithful were there in force, and clearly visible on the video feed on Fox College Sports. It was nice to see so many Pirates down in the USVI and with Xavier bringing the second-largest fan base, the semifinal on Sunday night at 8:30 Eastern time should have the house rocking.
Apart from the video feed being about 42 seconds behind the audio feed (I was listening at WSOU during the game), this was a great game to watch. The Pirates get another major conference team (I consider the A-10 a major hoops conference) in Xavier, a team that several picked to win the A-10. It is the second of 5 contests vs the A-10, and because it is on a neutral site, it should be the hardest one. I'll have a scouting report on Xavier coming up in the next day or so, so stay tuned for that.
And as always, Go Pirates!