It shouldn't end this way.
Not for Jeremy Hazell, who underwent a total 180 in terms of attitude and leadership, and finally looked healthy after both wrist surgery and a shooting on Christmas.
Not in the first round of the Big East Tournament, where the Pirates nearly blew a 30-point lead last year and blew an 8-point lead today.
And certainly not to an inferior Rutgers team who skidded into the game as opposed to the flying high the Pirates were doing.
I called the UConn loss "Soul-Crushing" on WSOU. This one? I have no words to describe the full depth of disappointment and heartbreak attached to the latest OT failing by Seton Hall.
But I'll try.
Here's what happened at The Garden on a Tuesday afternoon:
- The Pirates started off slow. Really slow, thanks to a situation where the Pirates did not match Rutgers' energy. The Pirates ended up getting right back in the game, but this slow start was a bit puzzling from a team that had been so hot coming into MSG.
But when you look closer, the Pirates weren't taking the ball inside at all. It was all chuck-it-and-pray. As every Seton Hall fan knows, the Pirates can't run that offense. They came back and ended up with the lead at the half because they took the ball inside, getting Gil Biruta (the only reason Rutgers had any offensive flow early) into foul trouble and opening up the offense. Once Biruta, the crux of the Rutgers offense, was off the floor, Rutgers had no answer in the first half.
- In the second half, it was up and down, but mostly up for the Pirates. A couple big plays and some more transition points, as well as some good defense, gave the Pirates an 8-point lead at the 7:44 mark.
Cue the collapse, courtesy of Jeff Robinson.
The Pirates all at once a) ceased to take the ball inside, b) stopped getting stops on defense, and c) LET JEFF ROBINSON CONTINUE TO SHOOT THREES. I am not being condescending or unreasonable at all when I say that Jeff Robinson shot the Pirates out of this game. His 0-7 stinker from deep contributed directly to the result of the game.
The Pirates were nearly saved from an untimely death when Jeremy Hazell (27 PTS) nailed a DEEP, NBA-range three over two defenders to send it to overtime, but we should have known better than to think that this group of players, who hadn't won A SINGLE overtime game in 3 years, would somehow prevail.
The first possession of OT? A J-Rob 3. I will now go and throw up.
- Hazell definitely looked the part of an All-Big East player today, carrying the Pirates' offense. Jordan Theodore and Eniel Polynice were great at the point guard position for the most part. Robinson blew the game. Plain and simple. And he will never take another three again for Seton Hall. How did that audition for the NBA go, Jeff?
See you in Europe, because after that sorry shooting, there is no way in hell you're making the NBA in any capacity.
- How do you get away from taking the ball inside when that was the only thing that was working? Up 8 with 8 to go, TAKE THE BALL INSIDE. GET TO THE LINE. SETTLING FOR THREES LETS THE OTHER TEAM BACK IN THE GAME. It would be obvious to a smart basketball player, but not to this group, who don't know how to win close basketball games with a lead down the stretch. And have never known. And will never know.
That's all I have to say. My head hurts. The final thing, I guess, would be to say that the offseason is here now. And with it come a group of players who can hopefully win a few close games. Hazell will be missed, but after the way the season went, I can't say that any other Pirates scheduled to leave will be. Keep follwing South Orange Juice for all your Pirate Basketball news.