Jeremy Hazell knew it was going to be a good night from the moment he took his first shot Thursday night against Louisville.
“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 3-point basket in front of Rick Pitino and the Louisville bench and the Pirates never relinquished the lead closing out an 80-77 win over the Cardinals in Big East action.
All five Pirate starters scored in double-figures led by 25 points from Hazell on 9-12 shooting from the field. He also tallied five rebounds, two assists, and two steals in what was one of his best all-around games of the season.
“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.”
Jordan Theodore had 17 points and four assists, Jeff Robinson notched twelve points and pulled down eight rebounds, and Herb Pope put up ten and seven rebounds of his own in the win. Edgar Sosa had 15 points in the loss for the Cardinals.
“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,” Coach Gonzalez said. “No leads are ever safe and we obviously did some ill-advised things, but we pulled it out and it was a great win for us.”
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 ten points on 4-8 shooting.
“If Keon Lawrence makes a couple of shots all of a sudden it changes our team,” Gonzalez said. “We thought eventually Keon would do something for us. He’s too good of a talent to shoot whatever he was shooting.”
Louisville closed the gap to one midway through the first half Hazell received a Lawrence pass off of a Herb Pope pick and was immediately met by two defenders. After a pump-fake he 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 ten 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, and the Cardinals outscored 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,” starting guard Jordan Theodore said. “We had a defensive mentality the whole game.”
The Pirates forced 16 turnovers while only giving the ball away nine times themselves and won the rebounding battle 37-35.
From here the Pirates will host yet another ranked opponent when they welcome Pittsburgh to the Prudential Center. Tip-off is set for Sunday at 2 p.m.
While the Pirates have gone winless against ranked opponents this year, after their performance against Louisville, they may have finally figured out the right formula.
“This is Pirate ball,” Theodore said. “I think that now we finally get it.”
Zachary Cziryak can be reached at email@example.com.