Where in the world can I begin? When the Pirates and Blackbirds met at the sparkling Barclays Center, only one team came out alive, figuratively. And with a well-rounded performance (about as well-rounded as you can get, actually), Seton Hall left LIU with a long walk back to campus in the cold.
Here are the 5 Thoughts:
- The Pirates Like Christmas
When the Pirates fell behind 19-11 thanks to the Jamal Olasewere show (12 PTS), the Pirates were not getting back defensively, and LIU was making them pay with long lead passes leading to either baskets or foul shots. The Pirates called timeout. After the game, Kevin Willard was quoted as saying that he "threatened to take away their Christmas."
And then they flipped the switch.
The Pirates embarked on a 20-2 run over the next 7 minutes, clamping down on the Blackbirds so hard on the defensive end that they clipped their proverbial wings right off. They ended up with a 48-29 lead at halftime, and I could not hide my glee at what I had seen.
Total focus. Rotations so immaculate that the Blackbirds' guards were rarely able to turn a corner, much less score. Damn-near PERFECT help defense when said guards WERE able to turn the corner.
It was the best half of the year on that side of the basketball, and the entire bench was so completely fired up I think they would have run through an army of orcs if they had to.
(On an aside note, I just saw The Hobbit yesterday, so it's still in the system a little)
And once the second half began, Seton Hall opened on a 15-4 run to put the game out of reach. GAAAAAAAH I LOVE DEFENSE!!!!
- But What Of Offense, Praytell?
Here's the cool part- THAT WAS GREAT, TOO!
Seton Hall ran their sets well. They got the open looks they wanted to. They got the post-ups they wanted to. And they made those shots for the most part.
And would you just look at the balance? No Pirate played more than 26 minutes. Only one Pirate took more than 9 shots (Brian Oliver, with 12). SIX PIRATES SCORED IN DOUBLE FIGURES AND NO ONE HAD MORE THAN 16 PTS. Everybody except Tom Maayan scored, even Connor Laverty. And, oh yeah, the 21 AST on 35 baskets.
They even broke presses tonight. And avoided a complete glut of turnovers (15 total). Couldn't help but cheese out all night from my seat.
Seton Hall took 21 threes in this game, making 10 of them. And by my count, only 1-2 of them were truly either rushed or forced. When your offense is running so smoothly that you are able to take threes in the flow of the offense, you normally get happy fans at the end of the game.
As an aside note to this, Brian Oliver knocked down 3-6 from the great beyond as part of his 13 PTS. You could see it in his stroke tonight- he's feeling better about his shot with each make that he gets. Good things are ahead.
- Maayans > Mayans
So, about the world ending? Yeah that didn't happen.
But at Barclays, I saw Tom Maayan do something similar.
For those who may not follow them, LIU's point guard, Jason Brickman, is one of the better lead guards in the country, at least from a mid-major standpoint. He can roll off screens, hit an open shot, and fit a pass through a keyhole.
And Tom Maayan (with Aaron Cosby also playing a big part)..... SHUT. HIM. DOWN.
Here's Brickman's final line: 0 PTS, 0-1 FG, 2 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL, 4 TO. Maayan was the main instigator in the first half, while Cosby was the main defender in the second half. Together, they got into the upperclassman's head, and by the end of the game, he didn't know which way was up.
You wanted better point guard play? You got it in spades. You can talk all you want about offense (Maayan avoided shots like the plague tonight, for some reason), but what Seton Hall's backcourt had to do tonight was beat back the veteran LIU backcourt of Brickman and C.J. Garner. And they did.
In my humble opinion, that was the biggest reason for the final score tonight.
- Odds and Ends
Brandon Mobley is really playing phenomenally well right now. 16 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL on the night with 6-8 shooting. With Patrik Auda out, Mobley is stepping up his game. I bet we'll be talking about him at the end of the year.
For the first time in the starting lineup, Kyle Smyth really put up some numbers, getting 13 PTS on a perfect 5-5 shooting, and also contributing with smart defense. Coach Willard can't help but glow when talking about him. He's the type of player that's effortless to root for.
The Barclays Center PA guy for the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Festival tripleheader was David Diamante, the Nets' PA announcer. His voice is fantastic for PA (he's been a boxing ring announcer, I believe), but he did have some noticable slip-ups (Brian Mobley.... Aaron Crosby..... the Seton Hall MOUNTAINEERS). He's a fine announcer, but logistics are not his strong suit.
Enjoy your holidays from all of us here at The Juice! Hazard Zet Forward to all, and to all a good night!