Hazell returns to form, Syracuse regresses

When a team like Seton Hall upsets a top-10 team on the road it means it played well. When a team like Seton Hall blows out a top-10 team on the road it also means just about everything went wrong for the opposition. The other thing it usually means is that that top-10 team probably shouldn’t be in the top 10.

Things started off bad right from the opening tip. Seton Hall won the tip, and Jeremy Hazell hit a deep 3-pointer on the first possession. Welcome back?

Hazell missed nearly two months of the season with a wrist injury and didn’t play the last time these two teams met. That last time, Syracuse won 61-56, and Seton Hall made just three of 26 of its 3-point attempts. But Hazell hadn’t been playing like the All-Conference player he was last season. In his four games since returning from injury, Hazell had shot 36 percent from the field and less than 20 percent from distance. He chose last night to announce that he is back and healthy again. Hazell had a game-high 28 points, hitting on 10 of his 17 shots including five of 10 3-pointers.

Seton Hall made its first seven shots and never trailed. It even started out hot in the second half and scored the first seven points to build a 50-30 lead. With a sizeable lead for nearly the entire game, Seton Hall was able to salt this game away, taking the shot clock down into single digits time and time again. And to make matters worse, the Pirates scored at least f0ur to five buckets with less than two seconds left on the clock.

Controlling the pace was just the first step to shutting down the Orange offense. It shut down easy shots by not allowing the Orange to get out and run. On top of that though, Seton Hall shut down all easy baskets around the rim. It had nine blocks and nine steals to prevent any easy looks by SU. The Pirates also made the 3-pointers tough by being close enough to contest the shots.

Of course, Syracuse did more than its part in aiding to this rout. The Orange missed countless shots right around the basket. C.J. Fair might be the only player one could make an argument played well. Here’s what the rest of the players did:

Scoop Jardine made even more horrible decisions than normal. Syracuse fans are accustomed to one to two “Sc-Oops” a game (I just made that up. Horrible isn’t it?). But last night it was one wrong decision after another. There was the time he had a clear path to the basket but pulled up for the tough mid-range jumper. There was the alley-oop to Brandon Triche (he does know Triche is like 6’2 right?). There was the time he jumped without knowing what he was going to do next which resulted in a steal and a 3-point play on the other end. And there was the time he decided not to play defense and allow an uncontested layup. And those are just off the top of my head.

Brandon Triche was the savior the last time these two teams met. He knocked down four big 3-pointers early in the second half to help lift the Orange over the Pirates. Last night he hit one of six from beyond the arc. He finished three for 11 and had three turnovers.

Rick Jackson finished with a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, but he didn’t really deserve that double-double. Two of those rebounds were off of his own easy shots he missed. Jackson did get six blocks, but he hit on just six of 16 shots in one of his worst offensive outings of the season.

Kris Joseph was timid until the game was out of reach. He finished with 17 points but didn’t get his first bucket until 8:32 remaining. I’m not sure why but Boeheim left him in the game to play with four benchwarmers in the closing minutes.

James Southerland is listed as 6’8. He played 19 minutes. He grabbed two rebounds. With the amount of errant shots the Orange was throwing up, he had plenty of opportunities. Can someone tell him he’s allowed in the paint? The paint has been dry in there for awhile – it’s safe to step on it. He also threw a lazy inbounds pass that was picked off.

Dion Waiters missed all four of his shots, and Fab Melo looked like he’d lose in a foot race to Rex Ryan (and yes, that is an intentional foot joke).

The reason I singled out each player is because they each played as if they didn’t have any teammates. It was a lot of one-on-one basketball with almost no ball movement. No one on this team is good enough to succeed repeatedly going one-on-one. They also looked like they were trying to regain the lead on each possession. Slow down there guys. This isn’t Rock ‘n Jock. There’s no 20-point bucket – you can stop looking for it, Mookie.

But the worst part about this loss is it looked like they gave up. The previous two losses they dug deep holes but fought back. They remained poised and played their game. Against the Pirates, they abandoned their offensive identity and there was no passion. A three-game losing streak will shake any team’s confidence, but now the Orange must figure out a way to regain that confidence. It has to get back to a more active 2-3 zone and force turnovers to get its offense going. And it’ll have to do it on the road. The Orange plays its next three opponents away from the Dome with games against Marquette, Connecticut and South Florida.

-Worst announcer quote – “Three Pirates surrounding him. Johnny Depp would’ve been proud on that one.”
-What are they doing with its full-court press? Twice Seton Hall beat it with a single pass, and the last line of defense was Brandon Triche. This isn’t the first time this has happened this season either. Where is Jeremy McNeil? I bet he’s spinning in his grave somewhere (I’ll assume he’s dead until someone tells me otherwise).