Have you ever seen the movie 'Apocalypse Now'?
If you haven't, that's fine. You saw a version of it tonight in this game.
When this game started I was initially worried that it was going to be an absolute romp, with the proverbial buzzsaw that is Seton Hall ripping through the entrails of Creighton like a Pirate after its bounty. I pondered, in my sleepless state, that the efforts of Isaiah Whitehead and co. would be too much for the Jays to handle, giving them fits down low, on the perimeter, and inside the lanes to the hoop.
For a while, I was right.
Through the first four minutes, the mighty Bluejays from central USA held their own against the mighty and surging Pirates from the eastcoast. It was a sight to behold, considering Isaiah Zierden did not appear to be 100% for the Jays, and that the offense has been less than stellar as of late. It didn't take long for Seton Hall to find their rhythm on both the offensive and defensive sides, going on a 12-4 run to push their lead to eight.
With a meandering solace of goodwill and strength the Seton Hall Pirates did what they usually do: win games even though it might look like, at times, that they won't. I recall watching them play the referees and what appeared to be St. John's at the Garden and hoping and praying that the Pirates wouldn't let the embarrassment get to their domes and lose, but sure enough they pulled it out.
That was a lot like tonight's game, a forceful will being imposed on Seton Hall to lose a game they most certainly should've won. Man, I heard a lot of references to 'chalk' - the idea that the higher seeds advance in a tournament as they damn well should. Seton Hall's seeding has no semblance on the way they play, a illuminating insight on the human mind. I hate the term 'Will to Win' because it's so cliche, but this Pirates team has it in spades. It's almost as if you're watching a bag floating carelessly in the void only to find out it's a stack of lead in a wicker basket plummeting downward.
I admit, this game was difficult for me to watch. As bipartisan as I'd like to imagine myself being, I really couldn't find the strength to be as strong tonight. In a sea of Seton Hall fans, both media members, students, pep band, and cheerleading squads, my heart was with the Bluejays. I'd never been in a hostile situation like that; where I'm trying my damndest not to let my own personal emotions get in the way of my work, but I am not so strong. In the end, the hoopball team I grew up admiring fell to a daunting foe that will wake a die hard fan in the middle of their slumber.
Isaiah Whitehead probably should've won player of the year - if only we were to measure the immeasurable grit of a player. He seemingly plays to get into situations to come out a hero, a bunny rabbit who lures a lion into the open, seemingly running for its life, only for the lion to fall into one of those trap holes that looks like open space but is just a hole. That makes sense, right? Also the rabbit turns out to be a grizzly bear in a rabbit costume. Isaiah Whitehead is a grizzly bear.
Creighton's season ends with a whimper, a thud, a malaise that just couldn't make it up to snuff. They were good - not great - and they had some porous holes that were unable to be fixed. The addition of Malik Albert into the 2-guard slot tonight was brilliant - his jumping, passing and wherewithal to get defensive stops was phenomenal. With Zierden at less than 100% I believe his potential on this squad next year will be paramount to the Jay's success.
Also - holy smokes was Cole Huff brilliant. 35 points on 11-16 shooting and seven threes? Plus the countless number of clutch shots he made to get the Jays back in the game after being down so many points... if he had been healthy all year and was able to produce that kind of offensive explosion even once a week the Jays would've been a hell of a lot better than a 6-seed. He's human, though, and shoulder and knee injuries can cause a player a great deal of discomfort throughout the season.
Seton Hall will give Xavier a great deal of trouble tomorrow night. They're so so good, and they refuse to lose no matter how the cards are stacked against them. Carrington was phenomenal tonight, adding a dimension that is seldom seen in the mainstream. I tend to forget how complete this team is considering the sophomore guard didn't even come up as a possible threat when looking over this game. 27 points on 10-17 shooting - plus three steals and three rebounds - Carrington was just amazing.
OK so - tomorrow night, Xavier and Seton Hall will play one another in the semifinals. It's hard, really hard, to bet against the Pirates.
Here's your stats. Goodnight!