Duke’s Cameron Crazies and Michigan State’s Izzone, meet your new competition: The Rock’s Lobsters.
New to Seton Hall men’s basketball games is the infusion of 12 students donning giant red lobster suits. The “Deep Blue Sea” initiative set forth by these students popped up for the Pirates first big non-conference game, a home outing against Wichita State on Dec. 19.
Andrew Boenzi, one of the students dressed as a lobster, recalls the group’s decision to bring their school a branded student section.
“We discussed that our student section didn’t have anything special about it,” Boenzi said. “I’ve been going to games for three years and it never had that atmosphere that you would expect to have at a Big East school. So we all felt like if we wore these costumes to the game it might spark something bigger.”
Well spark something it did, as the Pirates went on to upset the Shockers at The Rock, 80-76 in overtime.
The lobsters garnered the attention of everyone in the arena that Saturday afternoon, so much so that word of the creatures made their way into a team huddle during the second half.
Connor Frankamp had just hit two back-to-back three point baskets for Wichita State and the Shockers suddenly held a 62-55 lead with under five minutes left in the game. The Pirates called a 30-second timeout and it happened.
“I went into the huddle and said ‘Come on, it’s finals week. We got a bunch of kids in lobster suits; we got to get this win for them,’” guard Khadeen Carrington said. “It cracked a little smile in the huddle and then after that everyone went hard.”
Recognition does not stop there for the clawed students. Ismael Sanogo said that the lobsters were a missing piece last season that the team did not have to feed off of.
“School spirit, that’s what we lacked last year. To see them come out there dressed like that in the cold and be ready to have us excited, it was crazy.”
As far as their cheering tactics, Sanogo added that he hears what the group is yelling to his opponents in-game, as the lobsters are just a few feet away from the court.
“I hear what they’re yelling to the other players,” the forward said. “They’re heckling the other players trying to get on their nerves as much as possible. Sometimes I laugh to myself, like ‘yo these guys are annoying,’ but I love it.”
Bob Berscak, another student in costume, stands front and center during the games, focusing his energy on the opposing team’s bench and players in hopes of affecting their game just enough to benefit the Pirates.
“Where the lobsters sit, we’re so close to the opponent’s bench,” Berscak said. “So we’re able to get into the opponents head a little bit. Sort of talk them out of the game any way that we can. Any second we get their heads out of the game is an extra advantage for Seton Hall.”
During the lobsters’ latest appearance at the Villanova game, Wildcats center Daniel Ochefu received the brunt of the boiling by the group of crustaceans.
Averaging 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this season, Ochefu finished the contest with six points and three boards. Berscak knows the poor performance was due to the lobsters.
“In the most important part of the game, (Ochefu) needed to hit two free throws and when he was on the line he was staring right at the lobsters,” Berscak said. “I feel like we distracted him enough to miss both of those free throws with 20 seconds to go. Then he actually talked about the lobsters on Twitter and Snapchat after the game. He went on a little rant, so we obviously got into his head.”
SHU ultimately lost the game, but that type of advantage fuels the Pirate team and reassures them the lobsters bring the noise to Newark.
“We know when the lobster guys come out, everyone is gonna come out,” Sanogo said. “The whole student section is gonna be filled and that gets us excited.”
A student count of 1,503 was recorded for the Pirates’ game against Villanova – the lobsters’ second appearance – good enough for second largest in Seton Hall history.
Thanks to bigger crowds, bigger games and bigger smack talk, The Rock’s Lobsters are the lovable fan favorites in South Orange these days.
Just ask Carrington.
“I love the lobsters. Tell ‘em I love ‘em.”
Dennis Chambers can be reached at email@example.com. edu or on Twitter @DennisCham- bers_.