Friday's second semifinal match-up featured a northeast rivalry brought down south, as the St. Joseph's Hawks of Philadelphia, Pa., took on the Seton Hall Pirates of South Orange, NJ. My coverage of yesterday's St. Joe's game was met with harsh criticism, and my feelings were deeply hurt. Downtrodden, I wasn't sure I could survive more of the merciless backlash, and I nearly threw in the towel and gave up on this whole journalism thing altogether, certain I'd never amount to anything. "I'm not intelligent or objective enough," I told myself as I wept in a dismal custodial closet before the game began, feverishly scanning the Journalist's Code of Ethics through a fit of tears. It took just about all the courage I had in me to dry my eyes, return to my courtside seat, and give it one more shot.
In the tournament's first round, junior Carl Jones led the Hawks with 21 points in their victory over Georgia Tech, while seniors Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore showed their leadership ability for Seton Hall, each pitching in 20 in their win over the favored VCU Rams.
Jones picked up right where he left off yesterday, burying a three for the game's first bucket and following it up with a good-looking jumper from the baseline. The Hawks' success from deep continued, as 6'8" freshman Papa Ndao and 6'2" sophomore Langston Galloway each chimed in with a three of their own to give St. Joe's a 14-7 advantage. Somehow, Jones continued to escape the Pirates' defenders, hitting a wide-open three with 12:19 remaining in the first, extending the Hawks' lead to 10.
A 9-2 run by the Pirates narrowed the deficit to three before St. Joe's sophomore forward C.J. Aiken hit a jumper from 15 feet, widening the lead back to five. Seton Hall's shooters had noticeably cooled off, and shots that were falling in Thursday's victory over VCU were rattling out for the Pirates on Friday. Sophomore Fuquan Edwin got things going again, nailing back-to-back shots to cut the St. Joe's lead to four with under a minute and a half remaining. A big three by Jones made it 34-29 Hawks, but it was matched on the other end when Jordan Theodore pulled up for a deep ball of his own, cutting it to 34-32. Jones had another triple in his arsenal before the half's end, and a late foul on a fast break with under one second on the clock put him on the foul line, allowing him to extend the Hawks' lead to 39-32 going into halftime.
Seton Hall freshman Aaron Cosby opened the scoring in the second half with a three. Pope followed up with a hard fought bucket under the basket, drawing a foul and finishing off the three-point play. The Hawks' sophomore big man Halil Kanacevic received a technical foul for slamming the ball after he was called for a foul on Pope, and the Pirates tied the game at 41 on the ensuing free throws.
With the clock at 14:25, another three by Cosby gave the Pirates their first lead of the game, 49-47. St. Joe's kept battling, regaining a three-point advantage after Cosby turned the ball over, leading to a fast-break lay-up by Jones which made it 55-52. The Pirates climbed back on top with a bucket from Edwin, the result of a forced turnover by Pope at the other end. A pull-up jumper from Theodore gave Seton Hall their largest lead thus far, 60-55, with 8:30 remaining.
Pope, who had struggled from the line throughout the tournament, made a pair of free throws with 6:02 to go, putting his team up 63-57. Two foul shots from St. Joe's cut it to four, but a scoring frenzy made up of a three from freshman Haralds Karlis and a nifty basket from Theodore extended the Pirates lead to 68-59 with 5:14 left.
Down the stretch, St. Joseph's couldn't connect from the free throw line on a number of one-and-one chances, and with a minute and a half on the clock, Seton Hall was on top by eight. Down by the same count as the clock passed the 1:00 mark, it was still hard to completely count the Hawks out, being that their deep ball threat is always present. As the final seconds ticked away, the Pirates remained disciplined, and even with Carl Jones accounting for more than half of St. Joe's scoring, racking up 38 points on the day, Seton Hall held onto the lead for a 78-70 victory. The Pirates, whose success is arguably the tournament's most surprising story, will face the Northwestern Wildcats in Sunday's championship game.