Newark (N.J.) — Seton Hall’s unpredictable season has only really featured two constants: second half rallies against all odds, and Myles Powell stealing the show.
Trailing No. 16 Marquette 59-46 with 9:45 to play and their N.C.A.A hopes hanging in the balance, both constants held true and it may have saved the Pirates’ dreams of Dancing.
Seton Hall would score the last 18 points in the game, hold the Golden Eagles scoreless for the final 4:40 and outscore their guests 27-5 over the final 9:45.
With the Prudential Center crowd on their feet and Kevin Willard’s brother praying courtside in the final minutes on an Ash Wednesday Seton Hall fans may come to remember for some time, the Pirates, led by Myles Powell, perhaps pulled off their greatest feat yet this season.
“I didn’t know that. That’s crazy,” said Powell when told about the 18-0 finish.
“We knew it was on the line. We were telling each other ‘we’re going to fight for our year.’ We knew the opportunity that we had tonight and we seized the moment.”
It’s tough to count the times Powell bailed out his teammates tonight including scoring 15 points in just under seven minutes during Seton Hall’s unbelievable rally, but his pull-up three in transition to put the Pirates ahead 67-64 with 2:28 left, their first lead in nearly 30 minutes, almost blew the roof off of Prudential Center.
Powell was like a homing missile in transition on a possession that would officially be considered a fast break bucket.
The entire arena knew Powell was going to take the shot that capped off a performance which should be alongside some of the classics from Seton Hall guards.
Callandrillo. Morton. Dehere. Holloway. Barrett.
“Honestly my emotions are running so high right now it’s hard to remember what happened during the game,” said Powell when asked about the game’s turning point before collecting his thoughts and giving one of his most powerful post-game interviews to date.
I asked Myles to try to explain to us laypeople what was going through his mind during the closing ten minutes.
It took him about as much time to answer as it did to pull the trigger on the game’s defining shot.
“Kill everything. Yeah, kill everything.
“I knew if I don’t do it, it wasn’t going to get done. In the huddle, Coach came to me and said ‘Keep doing your thing!’ I went out there and kept doing my thing. We were getting stops, and as soon as my teammates were getting the rebound they were looking right for me, I didn’t have no choice. I love my guys and we’re going to keep fighting.”
Powell is right: his game takeover won’t only be remembered because of what he did, but the context. His teammates just couldn’t get it done offensively and Powell was their savior.
Although his guys struggled to put the ball through cylinder, defense was certainly a priority for Seton Hall tonight and the 25 points they scored from 18 Marquette turnovers kept them buoyant until Powell could take the wheel.
“That’s big for us, sometimes we struggle when guys are on Myles, face-guarding him,” said Quincy McKnight of how important creating offense from defense was tonight.
“When we get stops, that’s able to get us out in transition and that’s when we play our best basketball and just run, run, run. We speed up the game, we speed up them on offense and it creates turnovers.”
As usual, McKnight (5p, 6a, 3stl) played a large part in holding Markus Howard to six points, five assists, and five turnovers — but I noticed Powell also chipping in defensively by hounding Howard when McKnight wasn’t in the game.
Powell did everything tonight.
While McKnight had three to Powell’s one steal today, it was Quincy who explained a surprising stat.
“Myles (Powell), everybody thinks he doesn’t play defense but he does the little things. When I’m pressuring a guy he comes from behind, get his hands on the ball, getting deflections.
“It’s funny, we always look at stats drawn on the board after the game for game leaders and season leaders and Myles (Powell) leads the team in deflections. He leads the team in steals.”
Don’t worry, I already fact-checked McKnight. It’s true.
“It’s crazy, I’m playing all the defense and he’s getting all the credit for it (laughs). I love it, I just love it, he’s getting all the credit but it’s credit well-deserved. Everybody thinks his defense isn’t all that, but if you put a big on him, when you put him in the post, he’s going to fight. He has so much heart, he’s going to fight on defense no matter what.”
McKnight’s word on defensive prowess is worth something; Powell would don him the “Big East Defensive Player of the Year” in tonight’s post-game and give him some major credit for the turnaround.
“He’s the defensive player of the year in the Big East conference,” said Powell of McKnight.
“He does it night-in, night-out. He does it to me in practice. We believe in him and that was the big thing coming in: ‘Quincy, show us where your heart at. It starts with you on defense.’ Like you said, we ended on an 18-0 run. It started with him.”
But what really got Powell and the rally started was a three that hit the rim and perhaps the backboard before going in. He would follow it up with a tough fast-break layup not seconds later.
The Trenton native, Quincy McKnight, and Kevin Willard all concurred that sequence unleashed the flood gates.
“That Myles Powell three — when it hit the rim and backboard and went in — I just think it kind of relaxed them a little bit, and gave him the opportunity,” said Kevin Willard.
“I kind of just saw it in his eyes that he was going to take over, and he was just phenomenal the last five minutes.”
“He came back to the huddle huffing and puffing and Coach told everybody to catch their breath and next thing you know Myles pops up from the right side screaming his head off ‘Let’s go, let’s go!,” recalled McKnight of Powell’s second bucket to start the run.
“Coach is telling him to be quiet and that got us a little fired up and we came out and it was over from there.”
“Get him the ball (laughs),” added McKnight when asked what he’s thinking when Powell is in beast mode.
“When I see him get going like that man, when we’re in the huddle I’m screaming at our bigs ‘Set good screens, get Myles open, get Myles open!’ Especially when he gets hot like that, there’s nobody in the country that can guard him (long pause) except me.”
After citing the same two buckets which kicked-off the 27-5 run and made “everything start flowing,” Powell went on, passionately.
“We kept getting stops–Ro’ (Gill) too, Ro’ got a black eye, a busted eye, we were all fighting. We were all fighting, from the guys on the bench to the walk-ons to everybody that supported us all year, the coaching staff, they were in it and did a great job with the scout.
“The story of our season: We never gave up. We believed in each other. We were down 12, we could have hung our heads but we just kept fighting, kept fighting, kept fighting.
“I feel as though that’s the story about us this year: we’re fighters.”
This win drastically boosts Seton Hall’s odds of making the N.C.A.A. tournament, no matter what happens over the next ten days.
But what seems set in stone now are Powell’s final words of a passionate interview.
Win or lose, N.C.A.A. or N.I.T., remember this team for one thing if nothing else: they’re fighters.