The previously undefeated Auburn Tigers caught a Newark beatdown Friday night, falling to the Seton Hall Pirates by a score of 81-59. The Pirates improved to 6-1 on the season as Herb Pope recorded his third straight double-double and sixth in seven games. The Pirates never trailed throughout the night as they put on a show for a sold out student section, multiple recruits in attendance, a nationally televised EPSN audience and the Seton Hall Mens Swim Team lining the front row under the basket in, well, their uniforms.
As noted in the game thread, after taking care of business tonight, the Pirates are probably looking at a 10-2 non-conference record, at worst. If they can win a late December contest at Dayton, they'll likely finish their first twelve games with an 11-1 mark. Yes, the scheduling is ridiculously soft, but it was required for this young Seton Hall team. The Pirates can only beat who they line up with night in and night out. If you want to reserve judgement until they start going toe-to-toe with Big East competition, so be it, but it's undeniable, when clicking, they can fill it up and they're pretty fun to watch.
First and foremost, the player of the game could very well be awarded to the Seton Hall student section. What a turnout. Although the lower bowl was no more than half filled, a sold out and amped up student section led the charge from the opening tip to the final horn. In all my years standing among students in that section and following the Pirates, tonight was the most impressive turnout that I can remember. If the students continue to come out in a similar fashion, the Rock will truly provide a home court advantage through the rest of this home stand and into conference play, something that has been SORELY lacking in recent years. Let's change that. Tonight was a new beginning.
I'm running out of things to say about Herb Pope. As my colleague Rob (HallBall99) says quite often, he's just a man among boys on the hardwood. That's it. He can't and won't be stopped and I'll believe that until I see somebody slow him down. We saw Pope at his finest tonight in nearly all aspects of his game. In the first five minutes of the game he had two steals and a block en route to filling up the stat sheet as he's done so often. Pope finished with 23pts/12reb/3stl/3blk/2ast and another Josh Smith-esque stat line. There's going to be a ton of NBA scouts in attendance once conference play rolls around, if they haven't started filling up the Rock already. As my other colleague JP pointed out on Hall Line tonight, Herb Pope is hands down the best player in the Big East, right now. If you disagree, let's hear the names. Don't give me a player based on what they've done previously, give me a player in the Big East that's better than Herb Pope since the 2011 season began.
After failing to score in the first half, Patrik Auda broke out in the second half. Sitting with 2PF in the first half, I figured Auda would sit much of the game, struggling once faced with foul-trouble. I was wrong. In the second half, Patrik Auda was probably the best player on the floor. Finishing with 17pts/5reb/3stl on just six shot attempts, we saw Auda sink 2-of-3 3PT attempts and make 7-of-7 from the charity stripe, while putting forth a very impressive defensive showing.
Jordan Theodore failed to make a field goal from the floor, but did finish with 3pts/9ast/5reb/3stl/2to. He took care of the ball tonight, played his typical All-Big East defense, didn't force many shot attempts and found his teammates throughout the night. Those shots will fall, I'm not concerned about Theodore failing to make a bucket. He'll make those open attempts more often than not, but as long as he's distributing and protecting the ball, we're going to be in a position to win just about every night.
Fuquan Edwin finished with a quiet 14pts/9reb on 60% shooting from the floor. Four of his nine rebounds were of the offensive variety and for the majority of the game he out rebounded the big fella. With the lack of front-court depth, it's going to be necessary for the guards to continue to hit the glass as they did tonight (Cosby also had 4, JT 5). Our rotation freshmen, Haralds Karlis (8pts) and Aaron Cosby (13pts) added a much needed scoring boost tonight. There's going to be nights, such as this one, where the Trio will not combine for 60 and others will be needed to contribute significantly. Both players have the talent and the ability to pick up their production when one or two members of the trifecta have an off shooting night.
NJIT comes to town on Tuesday to face a red-hot Seton Hall team that for at least one night, is clicking on all cylinders.