How much fun was THAT!!!
I’ll stop just short of saying that was a “statement game” for SU, since it was Seton Hall and not, say, Louisville. But damn, what a thorough whuppin’ that was. Any time you take a conference opponent behind the woodshed like that, you know things are going right for you. I will admit I was concerned about this game, as SU is still a fairly young team and many of the guys have not tasted the true intensity of Big East play. Kris Joseph said this leading up to the game:
Practices have to get picked up a notch. The intensity. Everything.”
But it’s one thing to have him and Jardine saying the right things about ’stepping it up’ for conference play. It’s quite another for the entire team to go out and do it. They came out supremely focused on the defensive end and just completely throttled the Pirates’ offense. Steals, blocks, challenged shots, deflected passes, even strong defensive rebounding. With 5 minutes left in the game the Hall had 35 points — that’s one point per minute — on 28% shooting (14/50), with 22 turnovers, 16 of which were SU steals. Let that sink in. 16 steals, and only 14 baskets. The score was 68-35 at that 5-minute mark, following the MCW hustle steal off the inbounds which led to a Southerland dunk. Sixty-eight to thirty-five. SU nearly had the Hall doubled up. Total dominance. And it was a blast. The Pirates were able to “pad their stats” during the last five minutes, making the numbers just a little less fugly (though still quite awful), but make no mistake. They were completely washed away by the Orange tide.
Looking beyond the obvious Fabulous storyline, there was so much “below the surface” to like about this game: Kris Joseph’s pretty passing when he couldn’t get a shot to fall; Southerland grabbing 5 boards and getting active inside when he was missing badly from the perimeter; CJ Fair returning to his early-season form on the glass; Triche looking for his shot a bit more than he has recently; Keita getting back to his active self; and even some Mookie time, during which he made a great steal and, later on, a nice pass to Christmas for a dunk. But perhaps my favorite “won’t be mentioned on Sportscenter” thing about this game was the jolt that Michael Carter-Williams gave. There were about 12 minutes left and SU’s play had started to get lazy. Seton Hall made two easy layups, cutting the lead to 20. What happens? Boeheim puts in MCW, who goes out there — in his first-ever Big East game, remember — and plays hungry. Over the next 7 minutes, SU outscores the Hall 18-5, with MCW’s play re-energizing the defense. He had two steals in those 7 minutes, to go along with 2 points (on his breakaway dunk) and an assist, and harassed the Hall guards as if he’d been doing it for years. Just when the starters were getting complacent, he came in and put the boot firmly back down on the Pirates’ collective neck. I loved it.
And in the “Who’s He?!?” department: Herb Pope had as many points as letters in his last name, and six turnovers. Fuquan “What the Fuquan” Edwin, who was shooting 57% on the season, went 0-11. Aaron Cosby, who was shooting 42% from three on the season, went 2-7 on such attempts. It’s probable that Seton Hall is not this bad of a team. They just ran headfirst into a thresher tonight.
Looking at the box score, I was surprised to see that Seton Hall did actually out-rebound Syracuse 45-39, including grabbing 22 offensive rebounds to SU’s 22 defensive boards. SU has had some trouble on the glass, particularly their defensive glass, so the numbers by themselves aren’t shocking. But watching the game it looked like SU was controlling the boards more than this number would indicate. But then I realized something. Those offensive rebounds include blocked shots that SHU retrieved, or that were blocked out of bounds. So I went back and counted (using ESPN’s play-by-play). A full ten of Seton Hall’s 22 offensive rebounds came off of blocked Hall shots. SU rebounded 4 blocked shots. (One SU block was rebounded by neither team — Fab’s rejection of Pope with 1 second remaining in the first half.) So if you count only the shots that actually made it to the rim, SU outrebounded Seton Hall 18-12 on that end of the floor, which sounds about right.
Rough week for Etan Thomas, though. First, the NBA season opens without him being signed by anyone. Then his single-game blocked shot record gets eclipsed. Between Fab’s blocked shots and his knack for taking charges — and his exponentially improving ability to recognize when to do the latter and when to go for the former — he has a good shot at becoming one of the top defensive centers in SU history, alongside Etan, Conrad McRae, and Roosevelt Bouie. His rebounding is not there yet, but is there any reason to doubt that it will come in time?
And I made it this far without mentioning Dion Waiters, who did nothing in this game other than lead the team in scoring, shoot 7-10 from the floor, make three steals and three assists, and throw down another mean-ass dunk. He could shatter a backboard one of these days.
Finally: Three-time NBA Champion Dickie Simpkins is beyond awful as a color announcer and should be permanently gagged for the mental health and emotional safety of the entire sports-viewing population. (He wasn’t even on the playoff roster for two of those three rings. I’m just saying.)