For the second time in four nights the Pirates took on an undefeated Big East team ranked inside the top 10 in the country, this time with the fifth ranked Syracuse Orange.
The results would be the same with the Orange (13-0, 1-0) coming away with the 80-73 victory over the Pirates, 9-3, 0-2, in front one of the largest crowds in the arena for a Seton Hall game.
The loss was the Hall’s second straight to start the Big East season and third loss in their last four games.
Once again junior Jeremy Hazell led all playing in scoring with 38 points. The points came from 12-31 shooting and 6-15 from three. Sophomore Herb Pope, added to his Big East lead in double-doubles with his ninth, getting 17 rebounds seven of which were offensive to go along with 15 points.
“Bottom line is you’re just not going to beat teams like West Virginia and Syracuse when you shoot poorly,” head coach Bobby Gonzalez said. “Our shooting percentages just aren’t high enough for us to upset a team like that right now.”
The Pirates finished the game shooting 33.8% from the field and 26.9% from beyond the arc.
The shooting for the Hall was done by mostly by Hazell and Pope with the two of them taking a combined 48 of the Pirates 77 shots for the game.
No other player for the Hall scored over ten points with only junior Jeff Robinson making more than one shot from the field going 3-8.
“We’re going to get more balanced on offense,” Gonzalez said. “We just need more time together.”
One key difference that kept Seton Hall in the game was the turnover differential. The Orange committed 20 turnovers 13 of which came from steals with Hazell recording five and senior Keon Lawrence getting four steals.
“Jordan [Theodore] and Keon Lawrence kept, for a majority part of the game, Syracuse under wraps,” said Gonzalez. “They were outstanding with their quickness and steals.”
For the second straight game, although scoring the first three points of the game, the Pirates let their opponent take the lead early. After being up for a brief moment, Syracuse went on an 8-0 run giving the Orange the lead for the first eight minutes.
After being down 8-3, the Pirates slowly fought their way back to take the lead after a layup by Herb Pope put the Hall up 23-22. The layup was part of 11 straight points scored by the Hall giving them the 27-22 lead.
During the stretch Syracuse turned the ball over four times, all off steals, in a span of five possessions with the other time the Orange missing a three pointer.
“(Seton Hall) forced us into some mistakes that we haven’t made,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “They’re a good pressure team.”
With the pressure created by Theodore and Lawrence, forcing 11 first half turnovers for the Orange, and the Hall was able to extend their lead to 12 points with less than five minutes left in the first half.
The 12 point lead would not to half though, as Syracuse closed out the half with a 14-2 run tying the game at halftime 43-43.
To start the second half the Pirates held a slight advantage getting their biggest lead of the half at six with around 12 minutes left in the game.
After taking the six point lead the Hall went scoreless for seven minutes. During that stretch of time Syracuse went on a 15 point run to take the nine point lead at 66-57.
“We got interior touches and we came up empty,” Gonzalez said. “We came up empty and I thought that was the difference in the game.”
During the final five minutes, Syracuse only made three shots from the floor, but came up clutch with their free throws in that span making eight of their nine from the line.
The Hall continued to struggle from the line making only four of eight in that same span of time and finishing the night making 14 of 24 for 58 percent.
“Making free throws down the stretch is mental,” Hazell said. “You have to hit them down the stretch.”
The late free throws gave the No. 5 ranked Syracuse Orange the seven point victory over the Hall.
Now 0-2 in the conference the Pirates already find themselves two games back in the standings with 16 games remaining.
“Just to be able to beat a ranked team, feels good,” Theodore said. “Once we get one of these big wins everything will go right from there.”
The Pirates return to action on Saturday in their final non conference game of the season against Virginia Tech in Cancun, Mexico.
Stephen Valenti can be reached at Stephen.email@example.com.