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Seton Hall Pirates (15-9, 6-7) @ #8 West Virginia Mountaineers (20-5, 9-4) 12:00PM Open Game Thread

Seton Hall @ WVU, 12:00PM
WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, WV
Television: ESPN
Radio: 770 WABC  
Online: Pirates vs. Mountaineers Coverage 

Live game updates via Twitter: @GonzoBall @thecycle 

Projected Starting Five: G-Theodore, G-Lawrence, G-Hazell, F-Robinson, F/C-Pope.  Jeremy Hazell has been cleared to play and is expected to start.  Eugene Harvey will miss his second consecutive game as his wrist is still bothering him.  

After winning the biggest game of the year against St. John's on Wednesday, the Pirates will look to do it again as they travel to Morgantown to face 8th ranked West Virginia.  The two clubs kicked off BIG EAST play with a bang on the day after Christmas in an overtime thriller the Mountaineers won 90-84.  Jeremy Hazell overcame a 4-of-17 3PT performance to drill two very deep 3PT shots in the last 17 seconds, helping the Pirates overcome a 10 point deficit with 56 seconds remaining in regulation.  

Today, the Pirates will probably be dealing with a limited Jeremy Hazell and will once again look towards their defense to carry them through in Morgantown.  Without Hazell, the Pirates are forced to play much tougher defensively.  Let's be honest, Hazell is the only player in blue and white that is capable of dropping 30PTS on a given night.  If healthy, the Pirates are well aware that his sharp shooting services never put them out of a game, just see the first contest with West Virginia.  The problem is, his offensive firepower can lead to a lackadaisical approach on the defensive end.  If WVU is once again able to score at will, posting 80 points in 40 minutes, forget it.  For the Pirates to walk out of WVU with a steal, they must turn it up defensively, an effort that began Wednesday in Queens, where the Pirates held the Johnnies to 33% shooting.  

Speaking of defense, what combination of Pirates would like to volunteer to stop Da'Sean Butler? The senior from Newark, is leading all Mountaineers, averaging 17.7PTS/6.2REB/3.3AST and last torched Seton Hall with a 21PT performance.   How about the combination of Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks? The duo combined for 41PTS/31REB earlier in the season when the two clubs met in Newark.  All season, the Pirates interior defense has been suspect. They'll follow up a tough physical effort with a weak showing.  They often allow their opposition to not only set up inside, but to get free losing their man for an easy finish.  

It's no surprise Seton Hall has struggled to stop the elite bigs in the conference, however, for them to win today, it's going to have to start inside.  Who will step up? Defensively, down low, we know Pope is going to battle, however, we're going to need at least one other strong effort.  JRob? Wouldn't surprise me.  Ferrakohn Hall? Doubt Bobby plays him much.  Ditto Big Mel.  John Garcia? I'd love to see it as his career is winding to a close, I feel the senior is due for a 8PT/8REB gritty performance.  

"Our kids want to get in the conversation, and the only way to do that is to win. In our league we keep hearing about Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Louisville on the bubble. We beat these teams that are on the bubble, yet no one says Seton Hall is on the bubble." Bobby Gonzalez.  

Find a way to win today and the talk will take care of itself.  

West Virginia, another BIG EAST foe who holds the series record over the Pirates, via SHU Athletics:

Seton Hall and West Virginia will hook up for the 26th time in history and second time this season on Saturday. The Mountaineers have a slim 14-11 all-time series lead, but have dominated in recent years. West Virginia has won five straight and seven of the last nine meetings. Earlier this season, Seton Hall and West Virginia opened the BIG EAST Conference schedule with an overtime thriller on CBS. The Mountaineers won, 90-84.

Bob Huggins with a bit of a back handed compliment for Jeremy Hazell, courtesy of WVU Athletics:

What did he shoot it, 33 times? If I got 33 up I'm going to make a couple," said Huggins. He's a really, really good player and he got a lot of points, but he got a lot of them at the end when we didn't do a good job of finding him in transiton."

The 'Piratz' pregame preview: 

Someone needs to be an outside threat if Jeremy Hazell does not play. Whether it's Robert Mitchell or Jamel Jackson, someone has to at least keep the WVU defense honest. Otherwise they're going to sag and clog the lanes.

Lastly, Keon Lawrence has to have his best game of the season. With Hazell probably out and Eugene Harvey not 100%, Lawrence needs to score the ball. He desperate needs to resemble that shooter from Missouri. This is his time to pick up this team.

No No.  Lawrence shouldn't be encouraged to shoot.  When a shooter is in a slump, you want them to shoot their way out of it, however, his shot is so off that I'm not convinced Keon is a shooter at this point.  His confidence is shot.  His jump shots aren't even close.  It doesn't mean he can't improve his shot over the offseason, but right now, he should focus on other aspects of his game such as a commitment to defense, pounding the glass and dishing the rock.  I'd feel much more comfortable with Stix or even Jamel Jackson taking the increase in shot attempts than wasting possessions on attempts by Keon.  

As we mentioned in our fan shots yesterday, Hazell and Harvey will be in uniform and attempt to give it a go.  From Brendan Prunty:

Provided Hazell can play through the pain and the wound does not split back open, the team's leading scorer will be able to play. As for Harvey, who suffered the bone bruise to his right wrist in the the Pirates' win last Sunday afternoon against DePaul, he is still experiencing pain but will also likely be able to play.

Communication is listed as one of Paul Tyahla's keys to victory:

- Do a better job communicating on defense than they did December 26. West Virginia will run screen plays all over the floor, meaning SHU must execute their switches and fight through (not under) screens.
- Identify someone other than Jeremy Hazell as an outside threat, if Hazell cannot go.
- Get a season-defining performance from either Keon Lawrence or Jordan Theodore. That means finding their outside shot and generating turnovers

As always, Let's Go Hall!