NEWARK – After getting blown out by Syracuse at the Carrier Dome two nights ago, Seton Hall had to prove they weren’t a team that had just beaten up on lesser opponents. They had to prove they were a team to be reckoned with in the Big East. They had to prove they’re a team of NCAA tournament talk.
They did just that with a dominating 67-48 win over West Virginia.
“This was important," head coach Kevin Willard said. "We were embarrassed the other night playing Syracuse. They embarrassed us.”
No one was more embarrassed than Herb Pope. After double-doubles on a nightly basis, the 6-foot-8 power forward was neutralized by Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, scoring just four points.
“Last game I had a terrible game. I had six turnovers,” Pope (13 points and seven rebounds) said. “You go from being 11-1 to getting beat by 30. That hurts. And all the naysayers saying ‘oh they’re not that good of a team.’”
But tonight, Seton Hall proved otherwise.
"As a program we felt we didn't represent how we'd been playing all year," Willard said, reffering to the Syracuse game. "So we wanted to go out out and show everybody — especially on national TV — how we'd been playing."
Which had been like an NCAA Touranment caliber team, led by two seniors in Pope and Jordan Theodore.
Theodore had 18 points, eight assists and no turnovers. Fuquan Edwin scored 18 points after going 0-11 from the field at the Carrier Dome.
The Mountaineers (10-4) were looking like they were on the verge of making a comeback with just under seven minutes to play when they made it a 54-48 game. But as qucikly as the Pirates (11-2) lead evaporated, it ballooned back up.
While Willard said the student section was the difference in the final 6:49, Pope said otherwise. It was the pep talk his coach gave them in the media timeout.
“Coach said ‘Hey, we’re up 8. We’re not down so there’s no need to get long faces,'” Pope said. “They made their run. Now let's go out and finish the game off."
Seton Hall did just that, going on a 13-0 run to close out the game.
Now Seton Hall welcomes the defending national champions to town. But that doesn’t scare the senior point guard.
“No. It doesn’t mean anything at all because they don’t have their best player in Kemba Walker. He’s not here anymore,” Theodore said. “UConn, they’re going to have a hard time in the Pru[dential] Center come Tuesday.”