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Monday, November 24, 2008


November 24, 2008

The Seton Hall Pirates rallied together and headed off to Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic last week. With just eight scholarship players currently on the SHU roster eligible to play this season, the Pirates will be short-handed all season and facing long college basketball odds, especially in the brutal Big East.. Making things even tougher for Bobby Gonzalez's crew was the fact that starting forward Robert Mitchell would be held out of action for the first two games of the event as he served a suspension for violation of NCAA rules from the previous season. With nationally ranked USC up first on Thursday night and a field that also included Memphis, Xavier, Missouri and Virginia Tech, the Pirates had their work cut out for them.

When the score at the half of their opening contest with USC scrolled along the bottom of ESPN's bottom line on their family of channels, nobody probably thought twice of seeing the score: USC 43, Seton Hall 28.

The second half was a different story. Despite even paring the rotation down even further, to six players, Gonzalez's squad frantically applied pressure, forcing 19 turnovers on the game, and limiting the Trojans to just 18 second half points on 7-29 shooting. USC did their part, making just four of 10 free throws.

Clutch shots down the stretch by Jeremy Hazell pulled the Pirates even and gave them a final lead they would not relinquish as SHU completed an improbable victory, 63-61, over the No. 19 team in the country.

Hazell finished with 15 points and Eugene Harvey led the scoring with 18. Big John Garcia did the work on the boards all game, grabbing 18 to go with his 11 points.

On Friday night, there was no surprising comeback as SHU fell to Memphis 84-70. The defending NCAA runners-up had too much firepower and depth for the Pirates, who got 32 points from Hazell, 21 from Harvey and another double-double from Garcia, but much of it came too little too late as Memphis controlled the game throughout.

After a much needed day off and the return of Robert Mitchell to the line-up, the Pirates completed their stay in Puerto Rico with a meeting with Virginia Tech of the ACC.

Twelve minutes into the contest, things were bleak as SHU already trailed 29-15. The Pirates slowly chipped their way back into the contest, closing to within 40-34 at the break.

When you figured SHU would see their legs give out in the second half, they continued to play strong, finishing a 14-1 run to take a 52-46 lead with 11:51 left in the game.

The Hokies would rally to tie the game at 57-all, but Paul Gause hit big shots down the stretch, scoring 10 of his 14 in the last eight minutes and the Pirates would cap another improbable comeback with a 77-73 victory. Once again, Jeremy Hazell would lead the team in scoring, netting 23, and leading SHU to the third place finish in the 2008 Puerto Rico Tip-off Tournament.

Now, a few days of rest will do the Pirates well, Bobby Gonzalez and his team should return to a warm Prudential Center welcome this coming weekend when they host Delaware at noon on Saturday.



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