Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEWARK — Jeremy Hazell’s right hand was a good foot above the rim when he caught an alley-oop feed from Eugene Harvey and threw down a monstrous one-handed dunk late in the first half of Seton Hall’s game with Monmouth.
“When I threw it, I just knew it was too high and it was going way over his head,” Harvey said after the Pirates routed the Hawks 101-78 at the Prudential Center. “But somehow, some way he caught it. His arms are crazy long.”
And you guys have tried this play a hundred times before, right?
“The greatest part is we never did it,” Harvey added. “Guys like Paul Gause and Jordan Theodore always do it in practice. And then [Hazell] come to me and said, ‘Yo, in a game, throw it up to me, I can go get it.'”
Said Hazell: “I don’t know how high I can get, but they told me I was pretty high. I just went up to go get it when Eugene threw it and came down with it.”
Hazell, the Big East Player of the Week last week, tied his career-high with 32 points, including two alley-oop finishes and was 6 of 9 from beyond the arc. He did all of that despite a taped right thumb — the result of him banging it in practice two days ago — and despite sitting out the last 15 minutes of the game.
“Louisville was the only time I feel like I was in a zone just like this game,” Hazell said of last year’s win over the Cardinals. “The coaching staff and my players seem like I’m the go-to guy, so that gives me an opportunity to do what I got to do on the court.”
“He’s a pretty special player,” Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said. “We thought when we got him that we had one of the steals of the century. He’s starting to get in a zone right now…He’s a pretty big-time player. He gets it going, he’s pretty unstoppable.”
Robert Mitchell had a Seton Hall-career-high 23 points and John Garcia added 12 points.Harvey dished nine assists and had seven points. The Pirates dished out 26 assists on 33 baskets.
Pete Peregrin and Matt Cajuste, two of Seton Hall’s walk-ons, entered the game with about four minutes remaining. Cajuste, a 6-7 freshman forward from Old Westbury, N.Y., got a roaring ovation when he banked a 3-pointer from the top of the key for his first points as a PIrate.
“Now they have some experience under their belt, they beat some ranked teams, they just come back from Puerto Rico and [Hazell] is really shooting the ball,” Monmouth coach Dave Calloway said.
A year ago, Seton Hall blew a huge lead before holding of the Hawks in overtime.
This year, Monmouth (1-7) played without starting point guard James Hett, out with a foot injury, and senior Whitney Coleman, out with a torn ACL. The Hawks were picked ninth out of 11 teams in the Northeast Conference. Their only win this season was against an NJIT team that has dropped 38 straight games entering Tuesday’s action and hasn’t won since February 2007. Seton Hall leads the all-time series with Monmouth 10-0.
Travis Taylor led Monmouth with 18 points and nine rebounds, MIke Myers Keitt added 16 and Will Campbell and George Barbour scored 10 apiece.
After Seton Hall took a 59-35 halftime lead, the Hawks outscored the Pirates 43-42 in the second half.
“It was just important for us to come out and jump them and play great in the first half and we did that,” Gonzalez said. “We had kind of an offensive explosion.”
“We’re just a young team right now and coming into a game like this we just hope we do a better job defensively,” Calloway said. “We’re younger this year than we were last year.”
The Hawks will add 6-foot-4 Rutgers transfer Justin Sofmannext year.
The Pirates (6-1) won their second home game since returning from the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where they sandwiched victories over then-No. 19 USC and Virginia Tech around a loss to then-No. 12 Memphis.
“Coming back from that, it was a big boost in confidence,” Garcia said. “It showed not just us, but I think it showed everyone else that we’re a team to be reckoned with. We’re a team that if we play together, and we play hard, we can beat anybody.”
If Seton Hall, which continues to play with eight scholarship players, wins out before Big East play begins, it would be 11-1.
The Pirates open Big East competition at Syracuse on Dec. 30 in a game that will be televised by SNY and thatGonzalez will sit out because of a one-game, school-imposed suspension.
Eight Big East teams are currently ranked the AP Top 25, including No. 16 Syracuse.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.