There are refs that take the game into their own hands, and then there are the refs from Saturday night’s Seton Hall-Niagara game.
73 personal fouls were called in the Pirates 83-72 season opening win over the Purple Eagles, largely in part to the new “hand-check” rule established by the NCAA this season.
“I think it’s going to take everyone some time to adjust to it, I think the players are going to need to take some time, I think the refs are going to need to take some time.” head coach Kevin Willard said. “Anytime you make such a drastic rule change in any sport it’s going to take a little time.”
Both sides had a hard time getting used to the new rule change which led to a lack of rhythm from both teams.
“We made our first shot, they made their first shot but after that I don’t think we got up and down the court two or three times without the whistle being blown,” Willard added.
The Pirates never trailed in the game, going into halftime with a 39-34 lead. It was not until the second half when the Pirates were able to distance themselves from Niagara.
Sterling Gibbs shined in his Pirate debut tallying collegiate career-highs of 23 points, six rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes off the bench. He shot 17-for-23 from the free-throw line.
It was Gibbs who took over the game for Seton Hall in the second half, securing the victory for the Pirates.
“I think he did a great job, the guards were on him all night,” junior Patrik Auda said. “He did a nice job driving with the ball, getting to the free-throw line a lot to and converting those.”
Auda had something to prove as well tonight in his first game back since missing the bulk of last season to a broken foot. He finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Willard was impressed with the return of his power forward.
“Everyone remembers Pat from two years ago, not from last year,” Willard said. “The first five games he played in he played well. I was happy with how he played tonight.”
One player who struggled to stay out of foul trouble was senior Fuquan Edwin. Edwin only scored four points in 20 minutes. The game marked the first time Edwin has not reached a double-digit point total since a game against Georgetown on Jan. 30, 2013. He was held to 9 points in that contest.
“He got two quick fouls. I don’t think anyone could get a rhythm in this game,” Willard said.
Fellow starters Eugene Teague and Brian Oliver also saw limited action due to foul trouble. Still, the Pirates persevered.
“If you told me Eugene (Teague) would only play eight minutes, Brian (Oliver) would play six and Fuquan (Edwin) wouldn’t play that much and we’d win I would’ve said your nuts,” Willard said. “But that’s how this roster is built now.”
The Pirates are now 3-1 under Willard in season openers. The win marked the 16th consecutive non-conference home win for the team.
The Pirates return to action Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. when they will take on Kent State at the Prudential Center.
David Heim can be reached at email@example.com.