Newark, N.J. – The Seton Hall Pirates made a move to break a five-way tie for third in the Big East by defeating first place Villanova, 79-75, at the Prudential Center. Villanova was ranked No. 23 in the country coming into the game. The victory was the second upset this week for the Pirates who had knocked off No. 16–ranked Marquette three days earlier.
Seton Hall never trailed Villanova, taking a slim three point lead as both teams struggled to score in the opening minutes of the game. After the game, Villanova coach Jay Wright would note that Seton Hall looked “very ready and locked in” to start the game. The Pirates widened their lead to nine points midway through the half as their defense forced eight Villanova turnovers in the half.
Villanova made a run toward the end of the first half behind the hot shooting of Collin Gillespie who hit three of four 3-point attempts and finished the half with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field.
Seton Hall responded to the Villanova run with a 10-point run of their own as Myles Powell ignited the run with a walk-up 28-foot 3-pointer with 2:57 left in the half. Fellow guard Myles Cale added a corner three with just under two minutes to go and the Pirates took a 39-28 lead into halftime.
Seton Hall imposed its will in all phases of the game in the first half outscoring Villanova 10-4 in the paint and 7-0 on fast breaks. The Pirates also dominated the boards with a 10-0 scoring advantage on second chance points. The Seton Hall bench outscored Villanova 9-0 and would finish the game with a 17-0 advantage.
The second half started with a tightly called game which put both teams in the penalty early. After calling a total of 14 fouls in the first half, the officials had already called four on each team before there were four minutes gone in the second half.
Villanova went 5-for-5 from the field to start the second half as part of an 11-0 run that cut a 16-point Seton Hall lead down to five with fifteen minutes left in the game. The Wildcats stayed in striking distance over the next few minutes as the lead fluctuated between four and seven points.
Midway through the second half, Powell hit a James Harden-esque deep step-back three to put Seton Hall up by nine. The Pirates went cold after that and, after a stretch that saw them shoot 1 for 7, Villanova’s Gillespie was fouled on a driving layup and sank two free throws to get Villanova within one point at 66-65 with just under four minutes left in the game.
Villanova would then go on a two minute scoring drought in which the Pirates would extend their lead to 70-65, capping off the stretch with Powell and forward Sandro Mamukelashvili aggressively trapping Villanova’s Gillespie who was forced to call Villanova’s last timeout.
The last two minutes featured good defense by both teams as Villanova struggled to close a five point gap. The Wildcats closed to within three points on a few occasions in the last minute but free throws by Seton Hall’s Powell and sophomore guard Shavar Reynolds iced the game for the Pirates.
Seton Hall strengthened its case for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament with its continued strong play in a brutal conference (the Big East is the only conference in which all teams in the conference have an overall winning record) and Villanova was left looking for answers as it struggles to gain consistency going into the conference playoffs and NCAA Tournament time.