Same Old Seton Hall

Considering the strong possibility of Seton Hall star Jeremy Hazell missing Saturday's game against No. 8 WVU with a hand injury, the Pirates could, in theory, look significantly different from the team that took the Mountaineers to overtime back on Dec. 26. But head coach Bob Huggins didn't expect much to change from his opposition.

Hazell, a junior guard, injured the hand Wednesday night in a game against St. John's. It required stitches to close up a gash, which bled out considerably.

While Hazell had been averaging 21.9 points per game -- and had 41 points in West Virginia's 90-84 overtime win in the Garden State -- Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins said he didn't expect the potential loss of the guard to change the way the Pirates play.

"I'll be shocked if they don't shoot it quick and shoot it in transition," he said. "Everything's going to be penetrate and pitch. They set staggers for Hazell, and I'm sure they'll set staggers for somebody else. They're not going to change what they do."

Indeed, even before the loss of Hazell and with the additions of some previously injured players, WVU's third-year head coach said much hadn't changed in the slightly less than two months since his team took on Seton Hall at the Prudential Center.

Huggins said the main differences have come from the additional output of forward Jeff Robinson (who had only five points in 19 minutes against the Mountaineers earlier this year, but is now averaging 10.5 per contest) and the addition of Keon Lawrence into the starting line-up.

Lawrence, who was playing only a week after his first game back from a suspension (for arrests for driving under the influence and with a suspended license after being involved in a wrong-way crash that injured himself and another driver) when the Pirates and WVU last met, is averaging 5.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.

Both Lawrence and Robinson are transfers into head coach Bobby Gonzalez's program, coming from Missouri and Memphis, respectively.

But despite the increased roles of those players around Hazell, Huggins didn't see much different from Seton Hall than the team he had studied back in December.

"Still, conceptually, they do the same things," he said.

West Virginia (20-5, 9-4) did a good job of handling the Pirates for most of the game, holding a 10-point lead with 58 seconds left in regulation. But a pair of missed front-ends of 1-and-1 free throw situations and some shoddy defense on Hazell made an improbable comeback turn into a reality.

But Hazell had to take 33 shots (making 14) to score his 41 points. In the process, he became the first player to tally 40 or more against WVU since Gary Trent of Ohio did so in 1993.

But no other SHU player managed more than 11.

"If I got 33 up, I'd make a couple," Huggins said, drawing laughs. "He's a really, really good player. But he got a bunch of points at the end, and we didn't do a very good job finding him and getting in position."

The Pirates do have another all-around threat in Herb Pope, who averages a double-double at 11.3 points and 11.0 rebounds per contest. The 6-foot-8 sophomore guard was right on those averages against West Virginia in December, tallying 11 points and 11 boards.

"Pope's been terrific," Huggins said. "Herb rebounds it at both ends of the floor and I think he's given them a shot-blocker they didn't have before. One of his greatest attributes is that he passes the ball so well, they can run offense through him."

While Seton Hall could be seen as an NCAA Tournament bubble team (currently 15-9 and 6-7 in Big East play) after reeling off three straight league wins, the loss of Hazell and the fact that its second match-up with the Mountaineers comes in Morgantown could prove costly, as a win would certainly bolster the Pirates' case for an at-large bid.

"I think it's easier to play the second time at home than it is to play them a second time on the road," Huggins said, succinctly.

Tip-off is scheduled for noon at the WVU Coliseum on Saturday.


  • WVU sophomore guard Truck Bryant was cut just under his left eye during a Thursday practice, when, driving to the goal, he was clipped by teammate Casey Mitchell.

    The wound required three stitches to close, and Bryant was sporting a considerable amount of ointment over it before Friday's workout.

    Still, he said his vision was unaffected and he expected to be ready for Saturday's game.

  • Huggins was asked if he had spoken to former Mountaineer Joe Alexander, who was recently traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Chicago Bulls.

    "Just texts," he said. "I think a lot of the (reasons for the trade) is (salary) cap stuff. Joe comes off the books at the end of the year -- which wouldn't be a bad thing for him, necessarily, because then he can go wherever he wants."

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