MERNAGH: DESPITE HAZELL’S CLUTCH THREE, RUTGERS OUTLASTS SETON HALL IN OT
by RAY MERNAGH
Seton Hall, the team folks expected to be at least in contention for a tournament berth prior to the season finds itself in need of an unprecedented, and damn-near impossible, five-game run here in New York to make that dream a reality. The Pirates are on a bit of a roll though having won two straight games against quality opponents (St. John’s and Marquette) to close out their regular season.
In Jeremy Hazell, and to a lesser degree Herb Pope, Jeff Robinson and Jordan Theodore, the Hall seemingly posseses the talent necessary (especially when you throw in frosh Fuquan Edwin) to go deep in the week here. But that’s the thing about Kevin Willard’s group — they’re capable of scoring 90 (like they did at Syracuse on 1/25) or scoring 48 like they did in a loss at Notre Dame (not exactly a defensive juggernaut those Irish). When you add all that up, then throw Rutgers into the mix as their opponent, it really wasn’t clear at all how Hazell and company would respond.
Well, Hazell responded to the tune of 27 points, the last 3 of which put this game into overtime when an almost disasterous decision by Rutgers not to foul down three with mere seconds remaining.
Rutgers got the better of the X and O battle up to that point. They consistently got Jonathan Mitchell good looks down the stretch in a tight game and the Mt. Vernon native reponded time and again with either buckets or free throws. Mitchell finished with 25 points on 6-13 shooting and was 11-14 from the line.
Jeff Robinson kept jacking 3′s for the Hall even though he never made one. He was 0-7 on the day from distance and 4-16 overall. Seton Hall’s offense in the halfcourt left a ton to be desired, one possession in particular was absolutely brutal and ended with Hazell shooting a fading 3 as he fell into his team’s bench. Fortunately the ref whistled Rutgers for a foul on the play.
Rice said afterwards his philosophy was/is/not so sure now/ to not foul in that situation ever since he watched a game end badly for a team that did foul. He also admitted that philosophy might change going forward, “especially when you have a shooter like Hazell on the other team.”
It was a crazy game that featured Gil Biruta of Rutgers fouling out on a dead ball technical contact foul (definitely a case of video not being needed in this instance). Biruta was effective all day in the post and his departure seemed like it would doom the Scarlet Knights.
But just like Hazell’s 3 didn’t, niether did the curious call made by officials not on the floor but after they looked at the video monitor.
Rutgers will now face St. John’s tomorrow in another Metropolitan battle.
ROUND TWO: WEDNESDAY MARCH 9th: