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.
Seton Hall’s Theodore, Pope Live to Fight Another Day
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — The college basketball careers of Seton Hall seniors Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope will end at some point this month.
They could have come to a crashing halt Tuesday night had a 3-point attempt by Stony Brook’s Bryan Dougher been good with Seton Hall leading by two points and two seconds remaining in the game.
But Dougher’s 3-pointer was off the mark and a putback attempt at the buzzer was also no good, giving Seton Hall a 63-61 victory in this first-round NIT game in cozy Walsh Gym.
Theodore and Pope, who combined for 41 points, lived to fight another day and will face UMass in a second round game over the weekend. The Minutemen (23-11) survived a double-OT thriller at Mississippi State, 101-96.
Seton Hall (21-12) is still reeling from being left out of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, and a loss here would’ve been a crushing ending to their season.
Instead, they won their first NIT game since 1956 and snapped an 0-11 mark in the event.
“Obviously, we’re over the NCAA Tournament,” said Theodore, who had 21 points, 6 assists and 3 steals. “We didn’t get picked. It was tough that night, but the next day you gotta move on. We had to get ready to come in here and play Stony Brook.”
The Pirates — who lost 10 of their final 15 games after building a 15-2 record — now have their sights set on making a deep NIT run.
They can host as many as three games at Walsh — capacity 2,600 — before the semifinals and final at Madison Square Garden.
“The mentality is to win a championship,” Theodore said. “You know, we didn’t get into the NCAA Tournament. OK, that’s over. But now we’re trying to win the NIT and our next goal is to win the next game.”
Said Pope, who finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds: “We’re just going to take it one game at a time now that Selection Sunday is over.”
Two years ago, Seton Hall hosted an NIT game at The Prudential Center that was a disaster. They lost to Texas Tech in a game in which Pope punched an opposing player in the groin.
Fans chanted “Fire Bobby” at then-coach Bobby Gonzalez, and the following day, he was.
Willard was hired away from Iona, which made the NCAA Tournament this year but blew a 25-point lead and fell to BYU, 78-72, in a play-in game in Dayton, Ohio.
Now while the NCAA Tournament goes on without both Seton Hall and Iona, Willard is proud of what his team is accomplishing.
“This university has great tradition, but you start going through some of the numbers and you see it’s been a while since we’ve been able to sustain,” Willard said. “And that’s our goal, is to be able to sustain a level of playing and of wins.”
Seton Hall opted to play this year’s NIT games at Walsh, which opened in 1941 and hasn’t hosted a Big East game since 1986.
“Oh, it’s amazing,” Pope said of playing in Walsh. “What better way to go out and play your last game on campus in front of your peers, all the fans here. So I’m ecstatic. I was shocked when they told me we were going to play in Walsh, but happy at the same time.”
Asked if he wanted to play two more games here, Pope said with a smile, “Oh yeah, I want to play the championship here if we get there.”
Photo: The Star-Ledger
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.