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Thursday, January 24, 2008


January 24, 2008

An intriguing Big East match-up takes place Thursday night as the Seton Hall Pirates travel to Providence to take on the Friars. The Pirates won back-to-back home games last week over South Florida and Louisville and put their modest two-game win streak on the line. The Friars have not played in over a week, but their last outing was an impressive road win at Connecticut, marking the third straight win for PC.

Here are some local media preview stories on tonight's match-up:

Bobbt Gonzalez' Gang is off to Seton Hall of a Start (Hoops Weiss NY Daily News)
Seton Hall @ PC (Providence Journal)
Seton Hall Looks To Improve Road record at PC (Providence Journal)
Friar News for Wednesday (ProJo Hoops Blog)
Seton Hall's Hazell Finding His Range (Herald News)

Bobby Gonzalez is definitely a very excitable person and he could hardly contain himself Saturday night as Seton Hall rallied from 14-pts down to beat Louisville, 92-82, behind the white-hot shooting of freshman Jeremy Hazell. Hazell keyed a 41-17 run to end the game with an astounding display of deep 3-pt shooting. For the game, the frosh hit 8 three's and finished with 29 points. He scores them in bunches. He was coming off a 22-pt performance in the win over South Florida earlier in the week.

Now that the Pirates have tasted some success at home on conference play, they will need to step it up on the road. The Pirates are 0-10 under Bobby Gonzalez in Big East road contests the last two seasons. Illustrating the highs and lows of playing on the road and at home, in the two previous road games prior to his 51-pt outburt last week, Hazell scored a total of TWO points against Marquette and Pittsburgh the week prior. Last season, SHU lost at Providence 91-68, only to turn around and beat them at home 10 days later.

Now that the Hall has 'shocked' Louisville in Newark, a win Gonzo termed `monumental for our program,' they need to refocus ont he task at hand. In order to move up in the conference, they have to find a way to steal some on the road. Gonzalez is definitely getting a little carried away, but you have to admire his passion. Afterall, Seton Hall was an NCAA Tournament team in 2006 and won on the road against teams such Pittsburgh and Syracuse, so beating an unranked Louisville team on your home court is more on the line of things teams have to do rather than monumental. However, on a personal aspect, the game was HUGE to Gonzo and his excitement is still evident.

To win at Providence the Pirates are going to have to defend the 3-pt shot. The Friars hit 14 of 24 from beyond the arc in their 77-65 win over Connecticut last Thursday, led by Dwain Williams' six of nine and Brian McKenzie hitting all four of his attempts. The sophomore duo have been picking up the slack for injured Sharaud Curry and combined for 43 points in the win. Another player that has been key for the Friars is Jeff Xavier, who played for coach Gonzalez at Manhattan but opted to transfer when Gonzo left for the Seton Hall job. Xavier is leading the team in scoring at nearly 13 a game and has hit 45 three's in 17 games this season.

Each team is pretty thin in the middle and can rotate three big men each in the post. Providence's trio includes Randall Hanke, Jonathan Kale and Ray Hall while the Pirates will counter with an improving group of John Garcia, Mike Davis and Augustine Okosun. One of the better match-ups to watch this season is at the forward spot where Brian Laing and Geoff McDermott will go head to head. McDermott is always among the league leaders in rebounding and assists and Laing is one of the best scorers in the conference.

Eugene Harvey, Jamar Nutter and Larry Davis are the main guards in the Pirate rotation and with Curry out of the line-up for the Friars, they will look to apply lots of pressure on the Friar guards, who lack a true point guard with expereince. They have managed well with Dwain Williams and Brian McKenzie, but the are more of combo guards filling in at the position. If Paul Gause was healthy for the Pirates I could really see them doing some damage with their press.

Providence likes to play a lot of zone defenses (coach Tim Welsh was once an assistant for Jim Boeheim) and if they are in a zone, they MUST key on Hazell. If he gets going, it could be a long night. Weyinmi Efejuku could be the player in charge of defending Hazell and that might be an interesting match-up as the two are familiar with one another from the parks of New York City. Efejuku is a strong and athletic wing that could be a physical defensive answer to Hazell's catch and shoot ability.

With road games on the horizon against Syracuse (Sunday) and Notre Dame (next Thursday), winning at home is vital for the Friars, who are 8.5-pt favorites. I see some areas where Seton Hall can definitely exploit against Providence, but the Pirates are just 1-4 on the road this season. The Big East has developed a pattern this season, win a big game at home, go on the road and be humbled. While I think this will be a pretty good game, it is one that Providence has to have and should have a mental edge going in.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Providence 81 Seton Hall 72



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