Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Juice Goes Sour; Hall Loses 80-73

Well, we should have known it was going to be a tough night when after literally sprinting to the Prudential Center, security officials kept Ben and me waiting outside in the all too Syracuse like weather conditions before letting the herds of t-shirt hungry fans into the building. We definitely thought we were in for it when it turned out that Little Miss Piggins was one of our three esteemed referees for the evening. Have I mentioned yet the dozens of family members and friends - so called Setonia supporters - turning against us to root for their "favorite team"? And I don't even want to think about the omen that was sent from above when Jerry Walker's plea to the Pirate fans was suddenly cut off because of technical difficulties. With seemingly thousands of soon-to-be unemployed Syracuse students descending upon the Prudential Dome, err Center, the Hall was in for one tough evening.

However, for one magical evening, it seemed like The Hall would finally be able to climb the never ending pile of obstacles and adversity in its way and claim its first BIG EAST victory. Or at least it seemed that way. It seemed that way when Joe from Montclair won the Shot Clock Challenge and a whopping $500 to the Seton Hall University Bookstore (Joe, you might want to check in with Kwillet - official school Postmaster - to see how to wisely spend all that careful, they screw you on the shipping charges!). It sure seemed that way when Flagman tied a school record, making eight ovular laps around an increasingly injury ridden cheerleader squad. And oh, by the way, we had a 12 point lead at one point in the first half.

Well, for all you newcomers to the blog, welcome to the life of a Seton Hall Pirate basketball fan. While at times we were able to make Syracuse's famed 2-3 zone look like a block of Emmental, there were just as many times where our own bigs' hands resembled the Swiss product. And for all the "trans-fusion" that took place - did anyone else see the feed by Keon to Pope who threw down a thunderous dunk over, yep, you guessed it, JRob!?!? - we got hosed on a critical 10 second violation against Syracuse that wasn't called. So even though we went up 12 points towards the end of the first half, we were not able to squeeze that juice machine hard enough, allowing the Orangemen to close the half on a 14-2 run.

For every Keon pass to a cutting Hazell under the basket, just as many balls seemed to slip out of the grasp of Pope and Garcia, resulting in empty possessions and missed opportunities. Although Keon played arguably his best came since coming back from his suspension (5 pts, 5 rbs, 4 asts, and 4 steals) and Pope returned to seeing double-double, if it were not for another Herculean effort by Hazell (38 points, 6-15 from 3pt), we would have lost by 20 least.

So, as the Hall prepares to take its battle south of the border to Cancun, Mexico, all we can do at Setonia is wish for one thing this New Year's...a Seton Hall Victory!! Oh, and fellas, bring me back a Senor Frogs wristband!

Happy New Year's!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

To Pulp or Not to Pulp; SHU Preps for Cuse

After dropping home games to Temple and WVU, Seton Hall is ready to take on tonight the nation's #5 best team: the Syracuse Orangemen.

Now, you might be asking yourself, how will we ever defeat the 'Cuse? Will it be our tenacious half-court defense? Wrong. Perhaps our FEROcious rebounding? Incorrect. Rather, we plan to beat them with our PRESS. Or, more precisely, our PRESS AND TWIST.

With walk-on Matt "Juice" Cajuste twiddling his citrusy mitts, we intend to grab Syracuse by their Beyonce-esque skin-fitting jerseys and juice the living crap out of them. How do I know this? SHU is giving away "Juice the Cuse" t-shirts to the first fans to arrive (i.e. Dave and myself).

Now, in all seriousness, I really do think the key to victory will be the pressure our guards can apply. Yet again, our advantage in this game is at the guard position, as it will be against most teams we face. If Harvey, Theodore, Hazell (& Gatling?!?!?) can turn over this inexperienced Syracuse backcourt, we just might have a chance. With just a little luck, and some serious torque of the wrist, we'll turn Scoop Jardine into Smush Parker.

And just in case you don't think this game is personal, remember that last year we almost came to blows with Syracuse in Madison Square Garden. Remember also that my college roommate is from Fayetteville (a suburb of Syracuse, if Syracuse can even be called an urb) and my cousin's husband went to Syracuse Law. Quick question, Jesse: While your command of our nation's justice system is no doubt formidable, was it worth freezing your oranges off for 3 years??

Okay, gotta run. It's after 1 pm, and Dave and I need to get those shirts... JUICE THE CUSE

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hall & Hazell Trigger Happy; Force OT against WVU

When you drive to West Virginia, it seems like everyone and their mother has a gun. Nothing is more startling in fact than watching a basketball game in their campus arena when suddenly the Mountaineer mascot fires an actual civil-war musket in what has to be one of the most authoritative "SHOTGUN" calls of all time.

In other words, WVU knows a little bit about firepower. Still, I don't think they could've anticipated what SHU delivered yesterday.

Dave and I stood there, our jaws slack with awe and the memory of wisdom tooth extraction, as the Hall shot rounds and rounds of shots. True, the vast majority missed the mark. Especially our free throw shooting! Yes, Pope let loose round after round of blanks (1 of 10) and even Theodore and Harvey missed key opportunities at the stripe.

Even the SHU basketball operations team seemed to be misfiring. While it was clear the university was pumped to have CBS in attendance, and put forth quite an effort (e.g. balloon animal maker, blue & white pompoms) there were definitely some pre-game jitters. For example, there was a serious lane violation on the national anthem singer who started belting out "O Say Can You See" before the WVU team was even in sight. And while the CBS sports banners were quite aesthetically charming, did we have to present WVU's colors so prominently in our own building?? Lastly, could the mop guy please be a little more proactive?? Herb Pope was completing his 6th Scott Hamilton death spiral before we finally toweled up the sweat stains on the hardwood.

The refs also blew a couple big calls. Chief among them?? Cam Thoroughman camped out Mountaineer style in the paint for about 7 seconds on one possession. And the charge call on Jeff Robinson made my blood boil!!

Okay, those are the negatives. Here's the plus side: yesterday's game was one of the most exciting, most classic Seton Hall performances I've ever witnessed. Hazell was magical, and looked about as good as anyone can who shoots 4 of 19 from deep. He drove to the rim, hung in the air, and showed a national audience what makes him so special. Move aside Katie Couric!!

Another positive: Ferro Hall. If you listened closely, you could actually hear the Southern screams of joy from Tennessee as the freshman found himself in the game at the most pivotal moments. He even had a monster dunk in the last couple minutes of the game. Ummm.... MINT JULEP!!

Also, JROB. This guy is for real. Threw down some nasty dunks, and rebounds in traffic better than anyone.

Harvey did some great things too. A number of key layups and beautiful passes. That backdoor feed to Hazell was brilliant... just mishandled.

Bobby also coached a pretty good game I thought. Yeah, we probably should have fouled earlier on a couple possessions, and our offense looked a little cavalier at some critical points. But overall, we substituted very well, and I loved how involved Jamel and Ferro were in the offense. Our guys gave a superhuman effort against a very talented WVU squad. If we play that hard against the rest of the Big East, we should coast into the tournament.

Well, time to reload, because next we face the Orangemen. And I'll tell you one thing: Dave and I are definitely snagging some of those "Juice the Cuse" t-shirts.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hall Victorious In Battle 94-56; Armed to Attack WVU

Is it wrong that Ben and I felt a twinge of remorse as we watched our beloved Pirates squash Navy? I mean, after all, they do protect our fair shores, and SHU isn't that far from the Atlantic. Anyway, after taking a day of mourning to reflect on the loss of the Midshipmen, we decided it was OK to move full steam ahead and continue the insurgency against West Virginia. With Drill Seargent Gonzo - and trusty Captain1111 - at the helm, Seton Hall will roll into Saturday's critical matchup against West Virginia with all the ammo necessary...and hopefully a few bullet proof vests as well.

Now Ben and I have visited Morgantown. We've seen this WVU team up close and personal. And we've also hung out with Bob Huggins at the Morgantown Waterfront Hotel bar on the night before game day, securing his autograph on the back of our electronic room key. Thank God for Sharpies! But here's the point: this WVU team is good. They rebound at all positions and they're a good passing team.

For us to vanquish this squad, we'll depend heavily on our fastest fleet, i.e. Eugene, Theodore and Keon. Truck Bryant is good, but he doesn't scare us as much as Butler, Ebanks and Smith, who had his best game ever yesterday against Ole Miss. If we can distribute the ball from the point position, win the turnover battle, and penetrate from the corners, we just might make this one interesting. And of course, Herb will need to play his perfect game.

The question will be, can our players handle the big stage? CBS couldn't spell SHU with a Bob Huggins sharpie, so you can bet the announcers won't know Mel from Darnell. Our guys need to come out with that warrior spirit... they can't be tight.

Let's just call this one Operation Mountaineer.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hall Loses in "Perfect Storm"

Sure, Seton Hall had been perfect all season. But who had we beaten? Saturday's game against Temple would prove our first big test.

With tri-state meteorologists calling for white out conditions, Dave and I put our faith in NJ transit and rode into the Rock. Unfortunately, last night's weather was even worse than predicted.

It really was the perfect storm. With the debut of not one, but both of our prized transfers, Keon and JRob, we fans found ourselves cheering for a different team last night. Like a squall along the Eastern seaboard, it was easy to get disoriented as some of the typical central figures (Garcia, Stix, Theodore) seemed more like third-party electoral candidates, which is to say, not really important.

I had anticipated Keon and JRob would be nervous in their first game back. For the most part, they weren't. Keon flexed his mid-range game nicely and looked very steady in his jersey and out of the white Roger Rabbit suit. JRob forced a little bit offensively, but his athleticism was actually jaw-dropping, playing above the rim on a number of occasions.

No, our transfers weren't nervous. Our other guys, however, were. Theodore in particular played as if he was trying to prove he was still relevant with the new blizzard of talent. Ironically, it had the opposite effect, as he had a truly horrific stat line (0 of 3 from the field, 3 fouls, 2 turnovers, 0 assists). He also took a very bad shot in a critical situation -- down 3 with the ball, and Theodore doing his best Stevie Wonder rendition of "Let's Go Pirates" on the jumbotron, JT pressed A and B on his Xbox controller at the same time to result in an out-of-control 360 banker that was about the emptiest possession you could have.

Listen, I love JT and all our players. I don't want to be negative. But the truth is, one of the greatest aspects of our play to date has been our unselfishness and making the extra pass. Last night, there was none of that. JT has a 3-on-1 and gets called for an offensive foul? You gotta give that up, my man! Guys were trying to create by themselves (ineffectively) and generally looked threatened by the emergence of our two new snowcaps.

Now, is Temple good? Hard to say. I fear this loss will look worse in March than it does now. But by March, the snow will have melted and NJ transit will have no excuse to run 75 minutes behind schedule.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pope's Resurrection

Every once in a while, someone comes along who can capture Seton Hall basketball just slightly better than Ben and I can. This is one of those times.

"Pope's Resurrection," by Alejandro Danois

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hall Marches All Over VMI; Wins 134-107

The weather reporters called for a cold, wintry afternoon. Well, how wrong they were. Seton Hall was hotter than ever and Lil' Mel and Hazell made it rain as they scored 40 and 33 points respectively, accounting for more than half of Seton Hall's 134 points.

Seton Hall exploded offensively, scoring the most points in school history. JJax also set a new school record for 3 pointers made, shooting an unconscionable 12 of 15 from deep. His Holiness recorded his fifth straight double-double, Big Mel scored eight of the softest points imaginable for a 400 pound man, and Sticky-Icky twirled in 3-Stixies around his defenders en route to 18 points.

On the other hand, freshman phenom Fero continued his athletic, yet somewhat spastic play, but might be developing a dangerous case of Mike Davis-itis as he struggles to control the basketball at times. And Gonzo showed that he has still not perfected his secret sign language to the players as he was seen practicing a series of odd, baby-like hand gestures to the crowd. If I understood him correctly, he was saying something to the effect of give the ball to Jeremy and Jamel and let the m shoot. Smart play calling, Bobby!

All in Hall, it was a rather exciting and memorable afternoon. We came out with the firepower of the Maccabee army, and continued shooting until the last missed three by Fero Hall. Just imagine how many points we would have scored with Keon and JRob in the game? I guess we'll just have to wait until next week to find out...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hall Clenches Jaw; Laughs UMASS off the Court

Offense has always been the Gonzo specialty. But last night, SHU gritted its teeth and played strong defense, rendering the Minutemen nothing more than a passing reference in a Missy Elliott jam.

But before the Hall clamped down, the night began with one of the best open-mouth performances I've ever heard. Dave and I could not believe it -- that girl who sung the anthem should belt it out every game. In fact, it was sung so beautifully, I nearly forgot the excruciating pain of having had my wisdom tooth extracted just a few hours before. Bring on the Gause pad!

Still, while the musical talent was lovely, the tap dance portion was sublime. Derek Kellogg, the UMASS head coach, did his best impression of Michael Scott meets Savion Glover, as he awkwardly stomped around the court until he literally slipped in a puddle of his own soggy Frosted Flakes. By comparison, Gonzo was calm, cool and collected.

But that didn't stop Little Miss Higgins from imposing his will on the game. Handing out technical fouls like lollipops at the dentist, Piggins simply does not know how to be invisible.

Last night's individual performances were extraordinary. JT and Harvey played great on both ends. Pope gave a superhuman effort, considering he was recovering from a stomach bug. And even Mel and lil' Mel (Jamel) got into the action!! Is it possible that Mel scored the prettiest reverse layup of the season?

I do, however, have to voice one frustration: with these kinds of blowouts, I'm not sure why we leave our starters in the game as long as we do. The game was getting chippy, the score was out of hand. So why use Garcia at all and risk injury?? Cajuste played actual game minutes last year against Providence and Nova -- why not use him in spurts besides the last 5 minutes? I realize that Gonzo wants to give his starters experience, but these are the games when you develop your bench and rest the guys you need down the road. Dave and I almost lost all our teeth when Garcia's knee twisted.

Overall, great, great win. Can I open my jaw now?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Aye, Aye Captain Dan

Dan emailed Ben and I this afternoon and asked if we could post this on our blog to advertise the Pirate Blue Online Auction. So, mom and dad, happy reading...!

The Pirate Blue On-Line auction is open! The auction features once in a lifetime Pirate experiences, exclusive autographed Seton Hall memorabilia and much more. Here are just some of the great items available for auction:

- Dream Seats to the Pirates Home Games vs. Louisville and Notre Dame
- Courtside Seats to Pirates Home Games vs. Cincinnati and DePaul and many more!
- Seton Hall Radio/TV Sponsor Package
- Signed Pirates Memorabilia
- VIP Parking Passes for all Nine Big East Men's Home Games at the Prudential Center and much more....

Remember, the auction closes Thursday, December 17th so this is a perfect opportunity to get a great holiday present for that special Pirates fan! Check out the Pirate Blue Online Auction page for the full list of items!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hall Hits the High Notes, Wins 89-56

In a game full of highlights and high notes, Seton Hall took care of business against Hartford last night, keeping their undefeated dreams alive. Eugene Harvey had a double-double and a career high 14 assists, JT dropped 17 points, Jamel Jackson continued giving us hard data for our soon to be formed field goal to three point attempt theoreom, and even crowd favorite Darnell Gatling registered his first career points! Nice job, mini-me!

While the game finished with a personal highlight for Darnell Gatling, the game couldn't have started any higher. Ben and I have been riding the SHU athletics department the last few years to have better in-game entertainment, and they appear to have accepted the challenge. Not only have they introduced a thundering intro video that would make Frank Capra blush, but they also managed to find the best eight year old falsetto singer in the country who gave us a rousing rendition of the national anthem. Take that Frankie Valli!

All in Hall, it was a great game and Seon Hall did what they needed to Maybe next game the Seton Hall mascot can do flips through a flaming hoop...? Hey, just a thought.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hall Sends NJIT Back to the Lab; Win 93-53

In my first game back from scouting the finest basketball talent in Europe, SHU sent the NJITechnicians back to the Highlands, dismantling them 93-53. Although the tryptophan was evidently still sitting heavy in the players' stomachs for the first few minutes, Theodore entered the game with a much needed shot of cranberry sauce. After that, it was all gravy.

Pope posted his fourth straight double double, Hazell added 21 points, and JJ is well on his way to creating a mathematical sequence that would make even Fibonacci blush. So far this season, Jackson is 11 of 25 from the field and - you might have guessed it - 11 of 24 from three point range. Although he's thrown in a few free throws here and there, Ben and I are sure that given more hard data we will be able to devise a Jackson theorem a la the Mel weight-minutes ratio. Stay tuned Mr. Blaskopf!

But there was more to being back than just watching basketball. It was also about reconnecting with family. It was about looking ahead to Cancun, hearing how tequila ferments in cactus fields in Mexico. It was about catching up on all the Cornell trip shenanigans. It was about hearing outlandish rumors about the players, recruits, and the coaches. Yes, it's good to be back.