Eight-minute scoreless streak dooms Pirates to loss
Though they once held a 14-point lead, the Pirates were taken down by No. 6 Connecticut on Saturday night at the Prudential Center by a final score of 61-59.
Midway through the first half, senior forward Jeff Robinson put up a three off a steal from senior guard Eniel Polynice to give the Hall its first lead of the game, 18-17.
Minutes later Polynice drove through a crowded lane to convert for two more and maintain the one-point lead at 22-21.
Husky guard Kemba Walker, who came into the matchup with an average of 23.4 points per game, responded with a quick jumper with 7:17 remaining in the half.
At less than two minutes until halftime, senior guard Jeremy Hazell was fouled on a put-back attempt off his own rebound. He hit one of two foul shots, preceding another two points from senior guard Keon Lawrence just inside the paint.
Robinson nailed a three from Lawrence right as time expired to give Seton Hall a 37-32 edge.
The Pirates came out of the break firing, but were not able to connect from beyond the arc, going 0 for nine.
Early in the second half freshman guard/forward Fuquan Edwin found Hazell down low, who counted the lay-up and drew a foul. He hit his free throw to cap the three-point play and extend the Pirate advantage to 42-34.
Following a UConn turnover, Hazell brought the ball down the court for a slam with 11:53 to go, bringing the score to 52-40.
Shortly after, eight minutes went by during which the Pirates were unable to score.
“We just weren’t able to execute and we had a defensive breakdown,” Robinson said.
During the Hall’s scoreless streak, Walker, senior guard Donnell Beverly, freshman guard Jeremy Lamb and sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi were all able to contribute to the Huskies’ offense.
A dunk by freshman forward Roscoe Smith brought UConn within five, 56-51, with barely under six minutes to play.
After senior forward Herb Pope went 0 for two from the charity stripe, the Huskies held a two-point lead with 38.3 seconds to go.
Robinson tried to even the score by driving down low through pressure and getting a shot up off glass, but the attempt bounced out.
Smith was sent to the line and knocked down both foul shots to push the UConn lead to four. Hazell then rushed down the floor only to have his shot blocked by Oriakhi.
After the Huskies in-bounded the ball, Edwin intercepted a pass and scored off the turnover though there was not enough time remaining on the clock to sneak away with the win.
In a game that the lead changed 10 times, Seton Hall shot 37.3 percent from the floor compared to UConn’s 42.6 percent mark.
Hazell led all scorers with 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Robinson also sealed a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Walker put up a team-high 19 points for the Huskies in his 37 minutes on the court.
“I’m just glad to have a bye (before Rutgers),” head coach Kevin Willard said. “We’ve played 12 straight; nobody else has done that.”
Gabrielle Kiger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.