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Sacrificial Lamb: Defense does it for the Hall

January 5, 2012 Columns No Comments

NEWARK, N.J. – Preparing for ninth-ranked UConn, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard knew the guards would be a priority. Willard decided on defending Shabazz Napier as closely as possible, being defensively disruptive and taking him out of the flow. It all worked to near perfection as the Hall posted a huge 75-63 upset at the Prudential Center.

“We figured (Jeremy) Lamb would get his points,” Willard said. “It was pick your poison so we decided to defend Napier as tough as possible.”

The final line for the sophomore guard showed six points on 2 of 12 shooting (1 for 6 from three) in 35 minutes. Using the Manley formula, Napier came out with a -3. The 2 for 12 shooting coupled with five turnovers were major contributors.

The tempo free breakdown:

Possessions Offensive efficiency
UCONN 67 94
Seton Hall 65 115

Among the Four Factors, turnover rate was the key. At the end of the first half UConn trailed 35-22. They had 13 turnovers in 34 possessions. A painfully poor 38% TO rate. “We didn’t discriminate on turnovers,” UConn coach George Blaney said. “They were well-distributed.” The second half saw only one UConn turnover. The damage though, was done. For the game the Huskies were over the 20 percent cutoff with a 21 percent rate while the Hall showed a commendable 17 percent.

Added notes/observations:

1. Lamb finished with a team-high 19 points but received little help on a consistent basis.

2. Seton Hall used a 2-3 zone with very good results. Kevin Willard is an admitted man-to-man defensive coach but his zone was very effective. It was not just in the defensive results. Teams that do not play much zone often react after the pass. The Hall did it as a good zone team should, they moved and shifted on the pass.

3. The crowd at the Rock was literally electric.

4. Student section cheered and jeered when Blaney received a second half technical. Many of those students were probably too young to remember his days on the sidelines at the Hall.

5. I was impressed with the hustle and take charge play of Seton Hall’s Jordan Theodore. Still, I feel he is more a shoot-first point guard. Regardless, can’t find much fault in his sterling 19-point, 11-assist outing.

6. Herb Pope had another ‘rock’ solid 15 points and eight boards (six offensive) for the Hall.

7. A freshman of note is Brandon Mobley of Seton Hall. The 6-9 forward had a nice eight-point, seven-rebound effort in twenty minutes. Look for his role to keep gaining prominence as the season progresses.

8. The win snapped an eleven game UConn win streak in this series. The last Seton Hall victory was March of 2001.

9. As excited as Willard was of the win, he was equally thrilled to meet Victor Cruz of the NY Giants. Cruz visited the Seton Hall locker room after the game.

10. On the baseline: It was nice to see the Hall players and coaches join the dance team, mascot and cheerleaders for the post game alma mater – and not just ‘join’ but sing. I ran into Seton Hall cheerleading friends Reyna and Christine (they were in one of my stories last season). They told me I made a good decision in passing up St. John’s to cover the Hall.

Ladies, you were 100% correct.

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