-After committing 9TO in the first half, I wrote:
The Pirates need to take care of the ball and win the turnover battle in the second and they should secure the victory, of course, it would help if they stopped getting blocked inside.
Seton Hall (17-11, 8-9) responded by taking care of the ball to the tune of zero turnovers over the final 20 minutes. Eugene Harvey hit the pine in the second half, after being removed for his poor defensive play. Harvey also carelessly dribbled the ball out of bounds on the baseline under the basket without a defender even in his immediate vicinity. Keon Lawrence and Jordan Theodore refused to turn the ball over once in the second half, securing the victory over Rutgers (15-15, 5-12). Rather easily.
-A Gonzo Ball goes out to Herb Pope for the absolutely dominating performance we've all been waiting for since his 19PT/8REB showing against Pittsburgh in Newark. Pope, was clearly motivated on the road, in a must-win game against Hamady Ndiaye on senior night at the RAC, finishing his night with 22PTS/18REB/3BLK/2AST/STL. Who said he had tired legs? He shattered his two month double-double drought tonight and his biggest performance as a Pirate couldn't have come at a better time.
Pope sent a message in Newark with his hard foul on Dane Miller with 0.1 seconds remaining and it visibly carried over in tonight's action. The foul was evidence that the team was willing to play hard for 40 minutes and that's exactly what was on display in Piscataway. The Pirates played tough, hard-nosed basketball the entire way, refusing to give way to a Rutgers team that was fired up in an electric atmosphere at the RAC. The Scarlet Knights tried to create a little space early in the first half as they took a 10-5 lead and Ndiaye did his part, sending the RAC into a frenzy with a few powerful dunks. The Pirates would have none of it. Seton Hall was determined to fight through every RU mini-run and would continuously answer whenever the Red put points on the board.
-Jeff Robinson stepped up tremendously over the last month with Pope slumping and despite Herb's monster game, JRob found no reason to slow down tonight. Robinson also contributed a double-double, good for 16PTS/14REB/2AST/STL on only 7-of-14 shooting. Of course, 50% is nothing to complain about, however with the way JRob has been shooting over the last month, we've become accustomed to 70% nights from the junior. Tremendous job again by Jeff. Tonight was the first time all season we've seen what this team is capable of when Herb and Jeff both take over and it's a dangerous thing for any team in the BIG EAST to defend.
Robinson and Ndiaye got into a bit in the second half after JRob was inadvertently struck in the face by a Ndiaye block attempt. After the refs failed to call the foul, Robinson bumped Hamady on the next Rutgers possession. Initially, it looked like Jeff was just jocking for inside defensive positioning. However, on the replay, it looked like JRob gave him a little more as the Scarlet Knight fell to the ground. The Oscars are this Sunday and Hamady did his best to earn a late nomination with his flop that transpired after the bump.
After rolling from the key all the way to the sideline, the senior leaped to his feet and high-tailed it towards Robinson before his teammates intervened. Ndiaye was fired up, waving his arms and imploring the crowd to go nuts. The RAC responded and Rutgers seemingly gained all the momentum. You've got to love BIG EAST fireworks. Following the double-technical, Rutgers cut their five point deficit to only one with just 13 minutes to play. Not to be outdone, the Pirates would also respond to the tussle in an effort that proved to be more effective than the Rutgers run. The Hall reeled off an 11-3 run and created a little breathing room with 9 minutes to play.
-With Pope and Robinson having big games, Hazell must have been quiet right? Well, Jeremy only shot 33% on 6-of-18 shooting, including 1-of-8 from long-distance, but still finished with 19PTS/5REB. It was nice to see him hit the boards a little harder on a night where his shot wasn't falling. The Seton Hall faithful held their collective breath as Hazell exited the game early in the first half as blood started to trickle out of the cut on his hand. This time, the Seton Hall trainers were able to tend to the wound quickly and Hazell was back in action before five minutes ticked off the clock. The shooting slump has to be a bit alarming though, as he's obviously still struggling to find his grove with the cut still causing problems for his shot.
-Keon Lawrence! Finally. He had the type of game we've been expecting him to contribute, after seeing what he was capable of during his time at Missouri. Lawrence logged 32 minutes with 11PTS/5REB/3AST/BLK/TO on 3-of-5 shooting, including a 3PT attempt that hit bottoms. We don't need him to do too much with our other scoring threats serving as viable options, but if he can knock down a jumper here or there, it'll make our offense that much more dangerous.
-Five Scarlet Knights finished in double-figures, despite only shooting 36% as a squad. In his last game at the RAC, Hamady Ndiaye recorded 5BLK in the first half, but would come up empty in the second half, failing to continue the block party. He finished with 12PTS/5REB/5BLK.
-The Pirates DOMINATED Rutgers on the glass all night to a tune of 52REB/38REB (OFF:17REB/13REB), while RU finished with more STL/BLK than the Blue & White, 8STL/4STL, 7BLK/5BLK, respectively.
-Seton Hall swept the battle of New Jersey for the second consecutive year. Definitely a feat for Bobby Gonzalez, the Pirates and the Seton Hall community to be proud of. More importantly, with an impressive, hard-fought performance, the Pirates have worked their way back onto the bubble's thread. Beat Providence.
...Much more to come in tomorrow's day after post.