Hall back on the map after win
Faced with another ranked opponent in their early Big East conference schedule, the Pirates upset the No. 9 ranked Pittsburgh Panthers, 64-61, on Sunday at the Prudential Center.
This is the first defeat of a top 10 opponent that the Pirates have had in Bobby Gonzalez’s tenure as head coach.
Their last victory over a top 10 team came in 2006, Louis Orr’s last season as head coach, when the Hall defeated Jamie Dixon’s Panthers in Pittsburgh, 65-61.
“Hopefully it gets a little national attention, even though it’s early in the year,” Gonzalez said in his post-game press conference. “There was this perception out there of, ‘What’s wrong with Seton Hall?’ They have good talent and good expectations, but their record is not that good.”
Sophomore Herb Pope, playing against the team that he made a verbal commitment to in 2006 before deciding on New Mexico State, led the Pirates with 19 points and nine rebounds.
“I pretty much tried to play inside my team,” Pope said, a native of Pittsburgh suburb Aliquippa. “They told me before the game that they were going to try and feed me the ball, but I didn’t want them to force it to me. With Jeremy Hazell on the bench, we all had to step up.”
Junior Jeff Robinson scored 15 points in the victory for the Hall.
Hazell found himself on the bench for the majority of the game due to foul trouble; he had three in the first half including a technical foul. He picked up his fourth foul four seconds into the second half, which led to a Gonzalez technical foul and forcing Hazell to the bench again.
Hazell would return to the game with about nine minutes remaining and finished the game with nine points.
“For us to win with Jeremy on the bench with nine points, it shows we are becoming a good team,” Gonzalez said.
Despite Hazell only playing 16 minutes, the Pirates offense was still too much for the Panthers.
The Hall owned the paint, outscoring Pitt 38-22. The Pirates also shot 44.6 percent from the floor.
The Panther offense turned the ball over 20 times, which resulted in 26 points for the Pirates. Senior guard Eugene Harvey was on the receiving end of six of those turnovers; he had six steals in the game.
“I think they are a better team but I don’t think their record proves it,” Dixon said. “They had tough early conference games.”
This was the first of two meetings that Seton Hall and Pittsburgh will have this season.
The Hall will head to Pittsburgh on Feb. 6.
Hazell said he knew it was going to be a good night from the moment he took his first shot Thursday against Louisville, a game that became a 80-77 win for the Pirates.
“I thought ‘I’m feeling it, I’m in a rhythm, and it’s going to be a good game,'” Hazell said.
With a 4-4 tie in the opening minutes, Hazell sank a three-point basket in front of Cardinals coach Rick Pitino and the Louisville bench and the Pirates never relinquished the lead.
All five Pirate starters scored in double-figures led by 25 points from Hazell on 9-12 shooting from the field.
“Coach told me he was going to need a big effort out of me,” Hazell said. “I responded and it felt good. My teammates put me in great positions.”
Sophomore Jordan Theodore had 17 points and four assists, Robinson notched 12 points and pulled down eight rebounds, and Pope put up 10 points and seven rebounds of his own in the win.
“Obviously it was a great win but the main reason I’m happy about it is we outplayed them and won the game wire to wire,” Gonzalez said in his post-game press conference.
Seton Hall jumped out to a 12-4 lead early-on after a 3-pointer from Keon Lawrence who rounded out the Pirates in double-figures with 10 points on 4-8 shooting.
Louisville closed the gap to one midway through the first half. However, the Pirates capitalized when Hazell found a wide open Pope for a slam dunk making it 23-20.
Moments later, Hazell connected on a long three with the shot clock expiring to push the lead to 28-22 and the Pirates pushed the lead to 10 at the half 46-36.
“We go on runs that look like we can play with anybody in the country,” Gonzalez said. “The problem has been that we haven’t been able to sustain it.”
Although the final minutes saw Louisville mount a comeback, with the Cardinals outscoring the Pirates in the second half by seven, Seton Hall did enough to preserve the victory.
“This was the first Big East game that we played 40 full minutes,” Theodore said. “We had a defensive mentality the whole game.”
The Pirates forced 16 turnovers (while only giving the ball away nine times) and won the rebounding battle 37-35.
“This is Pirate ball,” Theodore said. “I think that now we finally get it.”
Tim LeCras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zachary Cziryak can be reached at email@example.com.