Garden State weekend for Pirates
A pair of in-state opponents mark the start of the 2009-2010 campaign for the men’s basketball team.
The Pirates tip off against St. Peter’s on Friday night at Prudential Center before travelling south in the Garden State to meet Monmouth on Sunday afternoon.
“For us, it’s a very tough first game,” St. Peter’s head coach John Dunne said. “Their (Seton Hall’s) pressure defense and full court up-tempo game is tough.”
Dunne is a former assistant at Seton Hall under Louis Orr, the school’s last head coach prior to the hiring of Bobby Gonzalez.
John Morton, the leading scorer for the Pirates during their run to the 1989 NCAA Final Four, is also on Dunne’s current staff as an assistant coach.
“The first year, it was a little emotional,” Dunne said about facing the Hall. “Playing Seton Hall brings back good memories.”
Seton Hall defeated the Peacocks, 60-46, in their lone meeting last year at the Yanitelli Center in Jersey City on Dec. 13.
The top storyline of the game was the Pirates’ poor shooting throughout both halves, resulting in a dismal 36.4 field goal percentage on 20-55 shooting by the contest’s end.
Seton Hall also went just 1-17 from three-point range in the game, including no made three-pointers in the second half.
Three Pirates scored in double figures in that meeting, including guards Jeremy Hazell and Eugene Harvey.
This year, St. Peter’s has been picked to finish fifth in the 10-team Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
“Our biggest key is to limit turnovers and limit questionable shots,” Dunne said. “We also can’t let Hazell get off from three (point range).”
Peacocks guard Wesley Jenkins has earned a spot on the 2009-2010
Preseason All-MAAC Second Team and led St. Peter’s in scoring for the last two seasons, most recently with a 15.7 points per game average last season.
Meanwhile, Sunday will mark one of only three non-conference games for Seton Hall to be played on the road when the Pirates visit the Hawks in West Long Branch.
Monmouth will be playing just their second game in its brand-new $57 million Multi-Purpose Activity Center. The Pirates’ offense had little trouble in last year’s meeting, defeating Monmouth 101-78 at Prudential Center on Dec. 2.
Hazell lead the team in that game with 32 points on 10-16 shooting and six three-pointers. Forward Robert Mitchell added 23 points and seven rebounds in the contest.
Seton Hall took early command against the Hawks in that game, outscoring the team 59-35 in the first half and scoring 41 points in the paint by the content’s end.
Monmouth struggled throughout the 2008-2009 season en route to an 8-23 season. The Hawks did not qualify for their Northeast Conference Tournament last year.
Despite returning four of its five starters from a year ago, the NEC preseason coaches’ poll tabbed Monmouth to finish in the same spot it did last season – ninth out of 12 teams.
Yet against the Pirates, sophomore forward Travis Taylor may test the Hall’s new frontcourt pairings. Taylor averaged 12.4 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game last year, both team-highs for returning players.
The match-up with St. Peter’s will continue a long-standing rivalry between the two northern New Jersey programs, a series that has the Pirates up ahead 23-57 all-time.
Meanwhile, Monmouth stands 0-10 historically against the Hall.
Seton Hall will have several off-days next week before meeting Cornell in Ithaca, NY on Nov. 20.
Brian Wisowaty can be reached at email@example.com.