NEWARK, N.J. – After their losing streak reached six games with a loss to New Jersey rival Rutgers, Fuquan Edwin and most of his Seton Hall teammates knew it was time to have a players-only meeting before taking on No. 6 Syracuse.
The little get together on Friday not only got the Pirates on the same page, it allowed them to put a little scare into Syracuse on Saturday night before dropping a 76-65 decision.
"They are one of the better teams in the country," guard Aaron Cosby said. "They've got guys who are lottery picks. This told us if we are focused and play together we can compete with anyone. We still have games left and we still have to go and compete. Games like this, we can build off."
Seton Hall (13-13, 2-11 Big East) might have pulled off the upset but it could not slow down Brandon Triche. The senior guard scored a career-high 29 points to go with six rebounds and five assists in helping the Orange (21-4, 9-3) overcome an early nine-point deficit to remain tied with Marquette and Georgetown for first place in the conference.
"His poise is excellent," Edwin said. "That's what he does. He was able to get inside our lines and create and make some shots."
Triche also had help.
C.J. Fair added 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Michael Carter-Williams had 14 points and nine boards as the Orange rebounded from a loss at Connecticut earlier in the week. James Southerland added 11 points for Syracuse, which gave coach Jim Boeheim his 911th career win despite getting points from only five players.
"Our guards were very good," Boeheim said. "They were the difference. Brandon was right on and Michael was fine. C.J. got a lot of good looks and even though James didn't shoot well, he gave us a lift. James is very important to us."
Edwin had 21 points and Eugene Teague added 14 points and nine rebounds for Seton Hall, which has lost seven straight and 11 of 12. Cosby was the only other Pirates player in double figures with 10 points.
"We had guys know their roles and what they needed to do for us to win or even (come) close to winning the games that we are playing now," Edwin said. "It definitely showed on the court. We had guys playing much more physical and harder."
The banged-up Pirates, however, announced after the game that Brandon Mobley would not play again this season because of a shoulder injury. He dislocated it during the game.
Triche was the difference in eclipsing his season high of 25 points against Rutgers and his career best of 27 against Oakland as a freshman in 2009-10. He hit 10 of 18 shots from the field and put an exclamation point on his performance with a final-minute 3-pointer, his fourth of the game.
"Brandon was aggressive tonight and that's the way we need him to play," Boeheim said. "He kept us in it early and then made the big plays in the end. He had an unbelievable game."
The Pirates proved pesky, limiting Syracuse to 38.7 percent shooting from the field. They trailed by six at halftime and they were still within 53-47 almost midway through the second half. Carter-Williams then made six straight free throws in a one-man run that coincided with a fan at courtside being ejected for saying something to referee Michael Stephens.
The free throws pushed the lead to 12 and the closest Seton Hall got after that was 64-60 when Teague hit two free throws with 5:51 to go.
Over the next 3 minutes, Rakeem Christmas went 3 of 4 on free throws and Triche added two foul shots, a one-hand push shot and a 3-pointer to put the game out of reach.
Seton Hall, outrebounded 42-32, came in off a two-point loss to Rutgers, and coach Kevin Willard probably wasn't thrilled knowing the Orange had been beaten earlier this week at Connecticut.
The Pirates, however, shot the lights out in the first 8-plus minutes, going 7 of 10 and opening a nine-point lead against a talented team that had scouts from the Nets, Jazz and other NBA teams sitting among the media. Four of those makes were from long range, with Haralds Karlis' shot from the corner giving them their biggest lead at 21-12.
It didn't last long, as Syracuse closed the half with a 24-9 run. Triche, Fair and Southerland scored all but one point in the outburst, with Triche and Southerland collecting eight points and Fair seven.