My grammar school basketball coach instilled a message in every one of his players that we will never forget for the rest of our lives: foul shots win games. He’d say it over and over, and as I grew up and developed a better understanding of hoops, I realized that he was right.
On Saturday night at the Prudential Center, Kevin Willard and the Seton Hall Pirates realized it, too.
In an 83-72 win over Niagra University, 102 fouls shots were taken. But while the Pirates made just one more free throw than the Purple Eagles -- yes, that’s really their name -- it was redshirt sophomore Sterling Gibbs’ contribution from the free throw line that sparked SHU to its first win of the season.
Gibbs came off the bench and totaled 23 points on the night with 17 of them coming from the charity stripe. It was enough to hold off a respectable Niagra team, led by junior Antoine Mason’s 34 points, that finished atop of the MAAC conference in 2012-13.
Senior swingman Fuquan Edwin had a rough night shooting, missing eight of 10 shots in 20 minutes of play and finishing with just four points and a pair of rebounds. Junior forward Patrik Auda, however, thrived on opening night and wound up as the Pirates’ second-leading scorer with an efficient 11 points (4-for-5) and a team-high eight boards.
For the first game of the season, it was a good win for the Pirates. Gibbs looked solid, and while the team struggled to shake off some rust, they found a way to win. Willard will look for more production from Edwin going forward, too -- but for now, a win is a win.
And a win means that for the time being, all is well in South Orange, NJ.
The Hall will extend their streak of playing teams with ridiculous mascots to two this week, as the Kent State Golden Flashes are on the slate for Wednesday at the Prudential Center.