Commentary

Hall could use help from healthy Hazell

Cuse loss showed how much Pirates need star, who may be ready Wednesday -- or not

Updated: January 9, 2011, 3:12 AM ET
By Kieran Darcy | ESPNNewYork.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- The player who had the biggest impact on Saturday's Big East clash between Seton Hall and Syracuse did not play a single minute.

It was hard not to think about Jeremy Hazell, and wonder what might have been, while watching the Hall hang with the undefeated Orange before ultimately falling 61-56 at the Prudential Center.

The Pirates shot a woeful 0-for-17 from 3-point range in the first half and an abysmal 8-for-35 from the field overall, yet trailed the No. 4-ranked team in the country 20-19 at the break.

In the second half, Seton Hall fell behind by 14 with just under six minutes remaining, made a stunning comeback to cut the lead to two with 2:18 left, but was undone by its lack of perimeter scoring against Syracuse's famed 2-3 zone.

[+] EnlargeJeff Robinson
AP Photo/Rich SchultzJeff Robinson scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as Seton Hall gave Syracuse a scare.

Starting forwards Jeff Robinson (17 points, 14 rebounds) and Herb Pope (14 points, 20 rebounds) had huge games, but Seton Hall shot just 3-for-26 from beyond the arc.

"I'm really proud of the way we played. I'm really proud of our effort," Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. "Again, we kinda struggle shooting the basketball without [Hazell] a little bit, and that showed tonight."

Hazell, a 6-foot-5 senior and preseason first-team All-Big East guard who has averaged more than 20 points per game in each of the past two seasons, has been out since Nov. 19 with a broken bone in his left wrist. He also suffered a gunshot wound under his right arm during an attempted mugging on Christmas Day, but he has healed from that. The question now is, has his wrist healed?

Seton Hall will find out at 10 a.m. Monday, when Hazell goes to see the doctor.

"If he's cleared, and he wants to play, he'll be in the starting lineup on Wednesday [against DePaul]," Willard said. "If he's cleared and wants to redshirt and come back and break the [school] scoring record, then that's what we'll do.

"He might not be cleared. I mean, the doctors said 8-12 weeks -- it's only gonna be eight. So if the bone's not fused, then the doctor can make the decision for us."

The fate of Seton Hall's season rests in Hazell's hands (no pun intended). With him, the Pirates are a threat to beat any team in the Big East on any given night.

Without him, they are what they are right now -- a team without an elite scorer that will struggle to win more than a handful of games in the conference.

"We really can't talk about Jeremy right now," said Pope, who had his finest game of the season. "It is what it is. ... If we don't have him, we just gotta stick together and play as a team."

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim did not sound happy with his team after the game, despite the fact that the Orange pulled out a win in their first true road game of the season and improved to 16-0.

"We just came out, we had no flow to what we were doing on offense," Boeheim said. "Luckily our defense was pretty good. We really had no flow the whole game."

The Orange were rescued by sophomore guard Brandon Triche, the team's fourth-leading scorer coming in (9.3 ppg), who scored 15 points, all of them coming in the second half. Triche connected on four of his five 3-point attempts, which helped Syracuse jump out to that 14-point lead.

On the down side, the Orange shot 17-for-36 from the foul line and were outrebounded 44-32. In fact, Pope and Robinson outboarded Syracuse on their own.

"I think the biggest disappointment is, we've been rebounding the ball well all year, and we just didn't do a good job," Boeheim said.

Syracuse will next take its unblemished record into Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night to play red-hot St. John's.

Seton Hall, 7-9 on the season after losing five of its past six games, will wait for the doctor's decision, and possibly Hazell's decision, on Monday.

"Out of the 16 games we've played, we've played 15 really hard competitive games," Willard said, discounting his team's 19-point loss at Louisville on Wednesday. "For the most part this team has brought it every night."

We'll know soon enough whether the Pirates will be bringing their leading scorer along with them the rest of the way.

Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

More from ESPNNewYork.com »

Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
Follow Kieran on Twitter »

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