Orange basketball drives to win at Seton Hall

The top scoring teams in Big East raced up court Tuesday on a New Jersey Turnpike reckless trip. Cruising in the car lane was the Seton Hall Pirates; over in the truck lane powered fifth-ranked Syracuse.

Take the truck lane, if you’re on the turnpike. And ride with a Texan who knows high-speed.

Corsicana, Tex. native Wes Johnson is driving a big shiny rig of a basketball game for Syracuse these days, and the forward supplied a 20-point, 19-rebound package in a 80-73 Orange win at Seton Hall’s new shiny home court at the Prudential Center.

Syracuse zooms to 13-0, 1-0 Big East, while the Pirates are curbed in their second consecutive Big East loss, and fall to 9-3, 0-2 in conference.

SHU guard Jeremy Hazell is a mile-a-minute talent, tallying over half his team’s points (38) with a game-high five steals. The rest of the Pirate traffic got held up in the holiday travel, making just four shots. Forward Herb Pope was the only other SHU player in double figures, posting a double-double with 15 points and 17 boards.

The first Big East road game for the Orange was a bumpy affair.

The Orange cut across early Seton Hall pressure for consecutive three-pointers by Johnson and Andy Rautins in the first half. Rautins connected again from beyond the arc after a Pirate turnover, putting the Orange out front, 18-12, near the 13-minute mark.

Both teams had fits of reckless driving early. The Seton Hall guards sliced the top of the Orange zone, drawing the SU big men on defensive rotation. The breakdown led to easy offensive putbacks for Seton Hall, and combined with 11 Orange first-half turnovers, kept the home team within four points, 20-16 with less than twelve minutes to play.

The Pirates amassed 25 offensive boards on the night, including 14 in the first half. Combine the easy lay-ups with an unconscious shooting guard, and a recipe for upset became possible.

The shifty Hazell lifted a charging SU defender with a pump fake on the wing and then sank a deep three pointer. More Orange turnovers fueled an 11-0 Seton Hall run, and the Pirates held the 27-22 lead after a Hazell breakaway layup.

The Pirates’ penetration against the top of the ‘Cuse zone created more problems, this time on the wing. SHU’s Jordan Theodore zoomed into the paint on one possession before spitting a pass out to Hazell. He again pump-faked an SU player off his feet, this time Kris Joseph, and took one dribble before nailing another three-pointer.  Hazell then got loose on a run-out and converted the lay-in for a 36-27 lead with 5:30 to go, pushing his scoring total to 17.

The Pirates extended the lead out to 41-29 before SU righted its path with the play of backup guards Scoop Jardine and Mookie Jones. The pair combined for eight points as the Orange closed the half on a 14-2 run; Jones corralled an offensive rebound and dropped the ball in the hoop to tie the contest at 43 going into the intermission.

The second half saw the SHU car get stuck in traffic while the Orange line steamed to new heights. Pope slammed home two points at 12:56 to put the Pirates ahead, 57-51, but Seton Hall was riding with no hands on the wheel.

Johnson (pictured above) hitched his teammates to his back, igniting a 15-0 Orange run with a jumper and a twisting lay-up. Johnson’s fly boy, Joseph, zoomed alongside, tallying six points in the run, including a highlight reel dunk from just inside the free throw line.

The Orange tightened up the loose parts it displayed in the first half, closing out the victory with free throws (13 for 15 in second half) and rebounds (25-20 edge in the stanza). The Pirates would close to within three points with 31 seconds left, but a long inbounds pass to Joseph sealed Cuse’s fourth straight win over Seton Hall.

Syracuse warmed the Big East truck up and headed back north. The Pittsburgh Panthers await the Orange on the other side of the New Year.

The decade began with a 10-game winning streak and ended with a 13-win run. Keep on truckin’, Orange.


Photo by Jamie De Pould,

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