Rivalry With Rutgers Could Spur Pirates to End Slump
Wednesday, February 8, 2012 • 2:45pm
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. -- When the Seton Hall Pirates and Rutgers Scarlet Knights tip off at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway tonight, there will be a lot more riding on the game than in years past.
Aside from the in-state rivalry matchup, the first of two meetings this year between the two New Jersey schools, Seton Hall will be playing to keep their fading postseason hopes alive.
This year, the motivation that comes from playing a rival might be the determining factor in getting Seton Hall back on track.
“In rivalry game I don’t think you can tone down your emotions no matter what your coach says or somebody says,” head coach Kevin Willard told NJ Hoops Haven blogger/journalist Jerry Carino. “You hope that after the first five minutes they’re going to come back down and play the way you want to play. But emotion is going to be a part of it no matter what.”
The Pirates have a six game-losing streak coming into tonight’s contest. During this time, the Pirates have shot 25 percent from floor in two games, and had a second-half lead in just two of the games (ironically, the two leads came in the same games that the Hall shot 25 percent).
“Even though we’ve lost six in a row, this is a must-win, especially playing against Rutgers,” senior Jordan Theodore said to Carino. “This is a game we have to win. This is the one we’re going to have to get. Guys are confident and ready.”
Seton Hall is coming off a dismal game at the University of Connecticut on Saturday afternoon, where not only were the Pirates without senior Herb Pope, who was out with bruised ribs and is still questionable for tonight’s game, but they also lost Willard when he was ejected with 3:41 remaining in the second half.
The keys to victory for the Pirates are very simple: Hit shots, control the pace of the game, and RELAX.
Despite the numbers, the shots being taken are quality shots that just have not fallen. If the Pirates can hit consecutive baskets to open the game (not such an easy task considering the team didn’t hit back-to-back buckets in the second half against the Huskies), the Pirates’ confidence may be boosted, and it could be a long night for Rutgers.
Seton Hall is a team that strives to score quick transition baskets that come from stellar defense. Facing a young team such as the Scarlet Knights, who have no seniors who play significant minutes, the Pirates should be able to force errors against them.
Finally, the Hall just needs to relax. You can tell even from watching the game on television that Seton Hall is pressing. The looks on the players’ faces show it all. This is a team that, when firing on all cylinders, is talented enough to compete for a top spot in the conference. All it takes is a little relaxation and some early luck.
“Although we’ve lost a bunch in a row, we still control our own destiny,” Willard said to Carino. “We’ve had five of seven on the road. No one else had to do that. We had three straight on the road. No one else had to do that.”
Tipoff for the game is scheduled for 9 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN2.
Timothy LeCras is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts designed to give students real-world experience.