Big East Morning Five: 01.04.12 EditionPosted by Patrick Prendergast on January 4th, 2012
- Put Seton Hall (13-2, 2-1) on the short list of teams looking to crack the respect meter and next week’s Top 25 after its relatively easy 75-63 dispensation of #8 Connecticut last night at the Prudential Center. Fittingly Herb Pope introduced himself to UConn and Andre Drummond by scoring the first bucket of the game; however, when the Huskies answered by scoring the next 11 points, it was not looking great for the Hall. From then on, it was no contest. The Pirates rallied to close the half on a 33-11 run and headed to the locker room with a 13-point lead they would not relinquish. Seton Hall point guard Jordan Theodore scored all 19 of his points in the second half and added 11 assists for the double-double. Pope ended up with 15 points and six rebounds. Seton Hall is battle tested, having played a solid schedule that includes non-conference wins over Virginia Commonwealth, St. Joseph’s, Auburn and Dayton. In Big East play besides the Connecticut victory, the Pirates have throttled West Virginia (67-48) and got throttled by #1 Syracuse (75-49). Next up for the Pirates is a road test at Providence on Saturday night.
- Coaches are always searching for ways to motivate their players and Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard had a softball served up to him by Connecticut’s Andre Drummond when he uttered his now infamous quote, “Who is Herb Pope? I don’t even know who that is.” The quote went vira,l but Willard, social media aficionado and conveyor of information that he is, ensured that it did not get by his Big East Player of the Year candidate or the rest of his team. According to Jordan Theodore, the coach addressed it with the team just prior to the game, “He just really said that, ‘I’m not going to let anybody talk about my players, so we better come out here and we better take care of home court and get this victory,’ and that’s pretty much it.” Willard’s words resonated with Pope as well, “Of course, right before jump-off, it gave me an extra little shot in the arm hearing coach repeat it.” The Pirate faithful were all over Drummond during the game with chants of “Who is Drummond?” raining down on the freshman who had a sub-par game with just four points and five rebounds, although he did contribute four blocks to go with the bulletin board material.
- While Seton Hall is a team on the rise, St. John’s appears to have come back to reality. The Red Storm opened eyes with their 91-67 blasting of Providence to open Big East play by overwhelming the Friars from the opening tap. Since then St. John’s has dropped two straight, losing 83-69 at Connecticut and 73-58 last night to #11 Louisville at Madison Square Garden. It’s not time to write off the Red Storm completely, as they’ve lost to two highly-ranked teams, and had no chance of catching Louisville napping after the Cardinals’ 0-2 showing last week. Still, the Providence game may have been the anomaly. St. John’s shot a season-high 56.5% in the game, including 37% from three. They came into the game shooting threes at a 26% clip. In contrast, against Connecticut they shot 36.2% overall and 16.7% from three-point land followed by an even worse performance last night (28.1% overall, 12.5% 3FG). Unfortunately for the Red Storm they cannot play Providence every night. St. John’s will have good nights as they are a talented group, but their overall youth and lack of depth will not allow them to win consistently this year in the Big East.
- One bit of good news for Connecticut following its tough loss to Seton Hall is that they will be getting head coach Jim Calhoun back soon. Calhoun has been serving a three-game suspension for a series of recruiting violations dating back to 2008. Perhaps some of UConn’s players will not view the timing of Calhoun’s reinstatement as good news, especially if he is running practice today. The suspension was announced last February, but Calhoun will be on the bench when the Huskies next take the floor on Saturday night at Rutgers.
- Earlier in the season Connecticut’s Alex Oriakhi lost his starting position and it received significant attention, in part to some comments he made on Twitter at the time. Somewhat quietly Oriakhi earned his starting position back after just three games in a reserve role and has started the last seven games, including last night’s loss to Seton Hall. However, Oriakhi did not start the second half of last night’s game which prompted a bit of a deeper look. In the first four games of the season (all starts) Oriakhi averaged 7.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 19.8 minutes per game. He then came off the bench in the next three games and his numbers were relatively level to the previous four especially considering the slight dip in minutes (6.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.7 BLK, 17.0 MPG). However since being inserted back into the starting lineup on December 3 versus Arkansas, Oriakhi has trended downward. His overall minutes are up (20.3 MPG) but the numbers have not increased in kind (6.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 0.7 BPG). Certainly Oriakhi’s hope of being any type of focal point has diminished with the continued improvement of Andre Drummond. Not to mention he is part a deep team with many options. Conclusion: Oriakhi will have to continue to adjust to a supporting role.