-First things first, let's talk venue. Despite Gonzalez's requests over the years to play at MSG, St. John's has refused, insisting to play their home games against The Hall at Carnesecca Arena for the extra home court advantage. Well, that's all fair, granted they have standard operating equipment. Shot clock mishaps will happen here and there, but would this have happened at MSG? To put it simply, No. Bobby's favorite arena in the BIG EAST has ridden him over the years, hanging signs, chanting and generally doing their best to make him uncomfortable, after he publicly criticized their decision to play at their on campus venue.
After 37 minutes of play, they turned their chanting toward their own head coach, Norm Roberts. "Fire-Norm!" was audible over television as SJU fans piled out of the arena down 12 with 3:30 to play. Wait, those numbers sound familiar, were their fans throwing in the towel? Sorry, had to. The Pirates won their 3rd contest in 22 attempts at the haunted Carnesecca Arena, as they picked up their first conference road victory while winning their third straight BIG EAST contest.
-Prior to the game, I made another case for Gonzalez to increase Stix' playing time and that's exactly what happened. Robert Mitchell, saw extended time with Harvey and Hazell out with injury. Nice move by Gonzalez, relying on the experience of his junior to step up with two starters unavailable. Stix played nearly the entire game, logging 37 minutes finishing with 15PTS/5REB/2STL/0TO on 6-of-12 shooting. Now, he obviously saw more minutes tonight than he will average the rest of the year, but if he's given the chance to play he's going to deliver. Mr. Consistency, job well done.
-Let's get to Jeremy Hazell. Through the first 12 minutes of the game, he was good for 10PTS on 4-of-6 shooting and 2-of-3 from long distance. Hazell scored the first 8PTS for the Pirates, keeping them from getting behind early after St. John's jumped out to an early 6-0 lead. Then, he mysteriously cut the webbing between his middle and ring finger, it was an odd moment as he really wasn't involved in any plays before the stoppage. Was he cut by a SJU player? No, I'm not insinuating one of the Johnnie's was running with a shank out there, but anyone that has played basketball can attest to RIP Hamilton fingernails, they're not fun and they can be painful, but man, in that spot? That's tough. It sounded like the cut was rather deep as the trainers were unable to stop the bleeding and conceded treatment by heavily wrapping his hand in a bandage. If it is a deep cut, it's more likely that he received the cut from the sharp metal on the rim, however, he wasn't involved with any plays around the rim before the stoppage.
Hazell received eight stitches after he was unable to return to action. He will be evaluated by a doctor tomorrow. At this point, it looks like we'll have to prepare for WVU without our best scoring threat as part of the game plan. Looking at you Stix.
-Keon Lawrence. 2PTS/4REB/4AST/3TO while shooting 1-of-8. Yes, he actually managed to lower his season's shooting percentage from 29%. In the pre-game writeup, I mentioned in 8-of-14 games he's taken at least 8 shot attempts, let's now make that 9-of-15 games. For someone that has shot consistently poorly, he seems to be very consistent in the amount of shots he takes. I'm convinced that if he focused on defense, distribution and crashing the boards, he'd be a valuable asset on this team. Don't get me wrong, there's a place on this team, he just needs to stop shooting the rock! Work the kinks out over the long off-season, just excel at what you're good at. There's plenty that he's good at, he just needs to focus on the positives while shooting less. He's going to shoot his confidence completely out of the gym if he hasn't already.
-The other Pirates PG shot just as terribly as JT finished on 2-of-11 for 6PTS/4REB/ASTL/0TO. I love to see JT taking care of the ball, but when you're shooting under 20%, one could argue that he wasn't all that careful after all. Too much shooting, not enough distribution. Giving credit where it's due, Keon and JT were both exceptional defensively for much of the game, playing tough man-to-man defense, never letting their man get too far away. With that said, get well soon Eugene.
-Herb Pope started the night on the ground, fighting for a loose ball with Malik Booth, before the refs ruled a jump ball. Booth vigorously ripped the ball from a seated Pope who responded by LIGHTLY punching Booth in the jewels. Another stoppage ensued as the referees reviewed the video and Pirate fans held their breath. I wouldn't have been surprised if Pope was ejected, but we're glad he wasn't as he finished another dominant performance on the glass in an all around balanced game finishing with 8PTS/11REB/3AST/2STL/2BLK, while shooting 3-of-6 in 37 minutes.
-A Gonzo Ball goes out to Jeff Robinson who continues to play great basketball, finishing the night on 7-of-11 shooting, good for 16PTS/9REB/2BLK, while going "Iron Jeff" on us, logging all 40 minutes of playing time. Over the last 3 games, he's shooting 21-of-31, incredible. I have to give Jeff credit, all season I've been on him to stop shooting 3PT attempts as his game is clearly strongest around the basket. With Hazell injured, JRob picked up the long-distance slack, calmly drilling 2-of-3 3PT attempts, improving his 3PT percentage to 20% on 2-of-10 3PT shooting. As I mentioned following the DePaul game, Robinson has developed into one of our top options, especially on night's where Hazell is off, or unavailable.
Seton Hall outperformed St. John's in the following categories: FG, 3PT, FT, AST, STL, BLK, TO, PF
St. John's outperformed Seton Hall in the following categories: REB
That'll get it done. Box Score here.
So here we are, just one game under .500 as the Pirates go to Morgantown on Saturday to try to pull even and seriously strike up conversation about the NCAA Tournament. A loss at Morgantown would all but require the Pirates to win out to finish at 10-8. A tall task ahead of them remains, but at least they've accomplished getting the first road win under their belt. Upsetting the Mountaineers will be extremely difficult without the services of Jeremy Hazell, but as long as he only misses one game, this squad has instilled a belief that winning their last 4 is certainly possible. Of course, if they're healthy.