Hartbreak: Seton Hall left in tears after compelling Big East semifinal loss to No. 2 Villanova

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NEW YORK — In many ways, Friday night’s 55-53 Big East semifinal thriller between Seton Hall and No. 2 Villanova was a replica of last year’s title game.

It was a fierce battle that felt like a Big East game out of the 90s which ended with another big-time and-one play as well as literal tears on the court for the loser.

Leading by one with the ball, :46 on the clock, and two timeouts, the Hall opted to keep rolling like they’ve done all season resulting in a Khadeen Carrington missed jumper he would regret post-game.

Following Josh Hart’s clutch but ordinary-for-him go-ahead put-back, Angel Delgado then backed down Kris Jenkins before just missing a two-footer that left him collapsed on the court in utter despair.

Delgado’s eyes were still beet-red over 30 minutes later in a hushed Seton Hall locker room that featured assistant coaches and former players Shaheen Holloway and Grant Billmeier as dejected as any current player.

“It’s the first time feeling like this in my life,” managed a weary Delgado after he said the loss was his fault. “We just have to work harder than ever, because I don’t like this feeling.”

The Seton Hall big man received an incredible gesture from a Seton Hall fan-hated Josh Hart immediately after the buzzer along with the rest of the Wildcats, who came over to Angel as he was still situated in the scuffed-up Madison Square Garden paint.

“It means a lot because he’s a great player,” said Delgado of Hart’s empathy a few years removed from the Wildcat intentionally tripping him in Newark. “I got a lot of respect for him, I hope he does good in life because he’s a good kid.”

“I have so much respect for that program, we’ve had some battles over the last four years,” said a senior Hart of his literal out-reached hand post-game.

“We felt this feeling last year. I said [to Delgado] ‘You have this feeling right now, come NCAA tournament time, don’t have this feeling again.’”

If Seton Hall can even come close to mirroring what Villanova did after their loss at the Mecca last March, watch out.

“We gave it all, I give the guys credit. I put a little on my side, it was my fault, but my guys, you have to give them all the best,” said Delgado of his team’s immediate future.

“For me, we’re the best team in the country, I’ve got the best guys on my team. … We really know we can do a lot more. We can win it all, in my opinion. I think we can win it all.”

While Delgado, who missed his high-percentage look which would have pushed the game to overtime, was blaming himself, Khadeen Carrington was also pointing the finger — at himself.

“I don’t feel good at all right now,” he shot back when asked if the team is peaking at the right time.

“We’re still peaking, we played a great game, it came down to the wire and we had a chance — I had a chance to seal it, so I’ll take the blame for it. … Everybody is hurtin’ but I don’t think he [Delgado] should put the blame on himself, he played a great game, he’s having an unbelievable season. It’s not his fault at all, he feels like it’s his fault but it’s not his fault.”

After the players sort out whose fault it was they fell a basket short of taking down a top-five ranked school at the Big East tournament in consecutive seasons, they know they have to put their heads down and work amidst a different vibe heading into the NCAA tournament compared to last March.

People always say that teams which win conference tournaments — particularly the Big East — may be a bit complacent or worn out heading into the Big Dance, and there’s a good case that affected the Hall last season.

That obviously won’t be the case this time around, but the Pirates have a different type of emotional mountain to traverse.

“It’s tough. You give your heart out, you play arguable the best team in the country right down to the wire,” said Kevin Willard.

“But we’ve got to bounce back. I’ve been saying it all year, when we were 3-6, I have a lot of confidence in this group. We’ll bounce back. We’ll fight back. It’s who we are, it’s what we’ve done.”

Carrington echoed his coach’s sentiment.

“We’ll bounce back. We’ve done a good job of bouncing back all year. It looked like we weren’t going to make the tournament earlier in the Big East season but we bounced back and that’s what we need to do again.”

  • Thehall

    I sat in an all nova section “obnoxious ” but they all said we are the toughest team in the big east. Willard did a great job this year. I used to think he couldn’t develop players. But whitehead,who should of waited a year to turn pro and angel both stepped their games under his regime up I hate to say it. But goodbye angel, you were a great pirate. If you syayed your senior year. you would’ve been a lottery pick. Tough as nails. Loved the nova fans being afraid of me. Lol. Lone pirate. Good future

    • Marklemore84

      Rest easy thehall. Angel will be back and we have a chance at a legit sweet 16 run. I was there the last two days. We’re legit and the kids deserve all the love you could feel in the garden. For the second consecutive year, Selection Sunday can’t come soon enough.

      • z06

        He will be back,if they get the Guys that I think they will get
        This will be a very tough team to beat next year.

    • At this point, my money would be on him returning. For whatever that is worth

      • Coach Mike

        Hope you are right!

    • hallstorm

      I actually was in small Seton Hall contingency in the overhanging 300 section with some Nova fans (there were so many more of them) just adjacent to us. They also felt lucky to get away with a win and acknowledged The Hall was the better team on the floor last night.

      I have no idea on what Angel will do–I don’t think he’s pressured as much as Isaiah was by his family and I think the decision after the season will be his own. That being said, Angel, like Isaiah, would really benefit from one more year (think all the press Swanigan had from day one–that would be AD from the outset of the ’17-’18 season) and I think his degree actually matters to him.

      Ultimately, I feel like Williard is actually building a system the program can build off year in and year out. I really like the direction we are headed in on the whole. Sha and KW are certainly getting well-known on the East Coast.

      • LBP

        What we do not appreciate as much as we ,perhaps should, is that Willard’s Players get better every year–a testament to Coaching

        • hallstorm

          I couldn’t agree more LBP. This is the argument I had against Joe Schmoe earlier in the year and a bunch of other posters on here (but especially Joe). I will certainly say that Williard’s first 5-6 years were a learning experience and his player personnel was not Big East calibre. He did the weave offense and the team had more than one or two mental lapses per game. Yes, that’s all true…..

          But maybe he just didn’t have the players. What I absolutely love is the sheer strength and physicality of our boys over the last 2 years. I also love the tenacious rebounding. They wear teams down. These have always been hallmarks of our program. I am disappointed in the free throw shooting overall, but we’ve demonstrated in games that we can hit free throws when we have leads at the end to ice games (Marquette and Creighton in particular come to mind).

          And I think the other huge attribute is that the staff is in the gyms of these local high school ALL THE TIME. I know that at least Hill is watching the Patrick School-Hudson Catholic game tonight and he was one of the first coaches in the building. We have a presence with these local kids and I think we’re going to have a really solid class in ’18–if it isn’t top 10/15 in the nation.

          • LBP

            hallstorm– a very significant reason I love this Team–they are very physical ( hope Refs let us play in the NCAAs) and they do wear Teams down and they are tuff.
            I just watched Patrick School v Hudson Catholic –Fishjam described J. Walker to a Tee– he may become a real good Big East player ( altho I am still concerned about his height)– some other high ranked Recruits–hallstorm if you, or others , want to watch full video replay it is available on nj.com /high school sports/ video reply/ today. Kinda fun

          • hallstorm

            Ooooo thanks LBP. I will watch this.

            Just a side note: Tremont Waters just de-committed from G-town. He is the 33rd ranked player and a top 5 point guard in the ’17 class. He is the same size as Walker, interesting enough.

          • Ardy

            I think he played point guard with MP last year?

          • ThePirateFan

            Let’s not forget how many horrible lapses there were early on in the Willard era with things like getting beat on underneath out-of-bound plays or just flat out looking in the other direction.

            You don’t see that anymore, and I doubt it’s because the coaching is any different. It’s because they have players that belong in the conference now. As Chris wrote in the other thread, in years passed players like Stephane Manga and Harald Karlis saw significant minutes. They wouldn’t touch the floor on squads of the last couple years.

          • hallstorm

            I haven’t forgotten if you read my above post. I mentioned the players. And I mentioned the mental lapses. But Williard also walked into a situation that wasn’t his players. Yes, he struggled with out-of-bounds plays, but I feel for you if you think his coaching hasn’t improved. I would argue that you aren’t watching the games because I could count about 63 other tournament teams that wouldn’t have gotten to the tourney with a 7-man rotation and with a guy like Madison Jones running the point (and a 6-man rotation more or less when Ish got hurt down the stretch). Let’s not count Rashed Anthony as a division I player–he isn’t even as good as Karlis or Manga. Manga at least could last longer.

            How about his second year? Pretty damn good team that is arguably better than this was is on paper. Theodore, Mobley, Pope, Teague, Oliver, Edwin, Auda….as good or better in my opinion. Yes, it was a tougher conference, but if you watch the game, his teams currently have more poise and control at the end of games. And that is with Madison Jones running the show….

            The fact that this team out-rebounds other teams and out-defends many other teams is what separates them and that is a coaching/motivation talent.

  • SHU95

    After losing by 30 & 22 respectively, Credit KW for changing the game plan & the players for dictating The pace… A hard nosed, defensive, some would say ‘ugly’, old school BE game. I am so proud of the the way they fought and scrapped against a team the has been # 1

    • LBP

      Thought Willard did his best Coaching ever in this Big East Tournie– let’s get a reasonable seed–Go Pirates
      BTW Nova doing whatever it wants to Creighton–we have become a better Team as the year went on–all we can ask for

  • SHU95

    Most of the season. Future remains bright! GO PIRATES, DO SOME DAMAGE NEXT WEEK!!

  • Andrew Herbst

    This team has been resilient all year and overcome a lot of adversity. We have a lot to take from this game and use as a learning experience. I have a feeling we’ll bounce back in the Big Dance. GO PIRATES

  • Joe Schmoe

    At least they covered the spread…

  • Latest:
    ESPN: 10 vs. Michigan in Indy
    CBS: 8 vs. VCU in Greenville
    USA Today: 9 vs. Vandy in Greenville

    Only way I see them getting out of 8/9 game is some sort of seeding anomaly where another school can’t be in same pod due to location/conference or something, but one can hope.

    • LBP

      Agree Chris– BTW does anyone puy any stock in ESPN projection–what a Big East bias

  • Mosleyman

    In addition to Khadeen taking blame for missing his forced shot, I also saw a quote from Desi in which he, quite correctly, blamed himself for not boxing out Hart on the winning put-back. I LOVE (!) that the team is backing up Angel and all holding themselves accountable. Seems to me that we’re getting as much positive press this morning as we did last year when we won the tournament. Hope the recruits are seeing this. Even with the loss, I’m a proud Pirate this morning.

    • hallstorm

      Agree 100% Mosley despite my initial reaction after I came home from the game. It’s VERY good to hear Desi say what he said (and yes–it’s 100% correct) and also to hear KC own up to his part. I’m glad the fellas are bonding together and not seeing fault.

      Let’s see how this all translates next week.

    • Hallbuster

      Yes!

  • DougFlynn

    What goes overlooked in this is the terrific play Madison Jones made to set up Delgado for the last shot. When he saw the double coming, he reached around the guy to his left and backhanded a perfect bounce pass into Angel. Unfortunately, he missed – in hindsight, I wish he had used the backboard, an old fundamental on layups seldom used. It just gives a bigger margin for error. But, it happens. He and the team played a terrific game – they needed one more play and last night, they did not get it. Hopefully they can get at least 1 game in the NCAAs and show progress over last year.

    In any event, it was good to see Carrington and Desi accept responsibility as well. These are good kids. But, I look at something else as a reason for this loss, which has been this teams achilles all season. Foul shooting. In tournaments, this usually plays a big role – a huge role in tight games. And it is something we really have not done well, outside of our round 1 win in MSG, pretty much all year. For those who remember the Dehere/Walker teams, they were not great outside shooters, but Dehere was terrific at the line, especially at the end of games. And, the 1989 team were all terrific foul shooters. It means the difference.

    Right now, I think the only NBA draftee on our roster is likely Desi – and that mostly due to his upside. Angel is a good rebounder, but really needs to further develop his face up game – and has to get better at the foul line. I do think if he is not drafted, he’ll have a nice career in Europe though – and, ask Anthony Avent, there is a lot of money to be made there. I suspect Whitehead ends up over there are well. All good. Unfortunately for Whitehead, I think his decision to go last year cost him millions in the NBA in the long run. The one break he received is that he went to a terrible team, made worse by Lin being out – which conversely gave Isaiah some playing time. Without that, as a second round pick, I don’t know if he’d have gotten to a 3 year career. Where, if you’re a first rounder, you get the 3-year guarantee, so, if you show anything, you will get chance after chance. And even with that, Isaiah is so raw in terms of the pros that you wonder how much time the Nets will invest in him after this years draft and free agent class. He had 1 year at PG in college – and already had missed half of his freshman year (most of the BE season) with injury, while playing SG.

    Hopefully if Angels family is not under too much financial pressure now, he can play his senior year and graduate. If he shows improvement in the two areas mentioned, who knows – maybe he will get a NBA contract. But at 6’9″, he has to play facing the basket in the pros. Instinctive rebounders are hard to find though.

    For now, let’s close this season strong and hope that we can do well recruiting this year and next to make this a program and not just a short run because of the one class.

  • Adam D

    No photos from the Big East Tournament?

  • Matt

    I know that I’m a little late to comment hear but doesn’t it seem like every game that we play against Nova we are playing against the refs too? Divencenzo fouled Delgado when he was going up for his own rebound after missing that layup and we didn’t get the call. If the situation was reversed, they would have absolutely called a foul on SHU just because it’s Nova. Regardless, you can’t be upset about this team. They played their hearts out. I am a huge KW skeptic but he really held the team together this year despite being 3-6 in the Big East at one point. Gotta give it to him and the players. Looking forward to tomorrow!

    • Matt

      here* lol

    • Hallbuster

      Proud of our team but disgusted how the refs called it. They called nearly double the fouls on shu as they did nova and some crucial ones at that. It was disgusting to see them protect nova like that and not give the same respect to the defending big east champs playing their hearts out.

    • Hallbuster

      Totally agree

  • Peter

    I needed to take 24 hours off from college basketball after this game because I was so spent, so I apologize for the late response. I just re-watched the game and I cannot be prouder of the effort this team put out. I mean, Angel Delgado has passion oozing from his damn pores. This team overachieves given how well they play together as a unit. I will always respect and appreciate that no matter what the outcome. Give me a team like this over the annual “one and done” teams the Kentuckys of the world put out each year.