Myles Powell scored 29 and Romaro Gill added 15 second half points as No. 18 Seton Hall rallied from a ten-point halftime deficit to shock No. 5 Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse to mark a historic night for Pirates basketball.
Seton Hall’s 5-0 start to Big East play is the best in their history and the win marks just the second top-five road win ever after Syracuse in 2000.
After both teams started well on offense, Butler suffocated Seton Hall to the tune of 32-13 over the last 13:30 of the half to build a 40-30 lead that felt like more against such a sound team.
But Quincy McKnight, Myles Powell, and Romaro Gill synthesized to generate a 48-point second half that saw 15 from Gill, 19 from Powell and nine dimes from McKnight, who had 13 total.
Starting in the place of injured Sandro Mamukelashvili, it was sophomore Jared Rhoden who finalized the upset, drilling a wing three to go up five with the shot clock expiring and then adding a mean slam to ice the game in the closing seconds after the defense clamped down on Butler.
Quincy McKnight and Romaro Gill got the second half party going on offense. It was like Groundhog Day out there watching the alley-oops they combined for, but it really got the team going after a woeful last ten minutes of the first. Myles Powell did his thing while also making a few errors in judgement, but for me it was McKnight and Gill that boosted the team’s collective confidence back up after combining several times.
On the topic of McKnight and Anthony Nelson, I’m not sure why it’s so polarizing. People keep calling for Nelson, but McKnight keeps answering the doubters. His stat lines have been unreal, he’s first in the Big East in assist rate, 44th nationally and has averaged 8.8 apg in league play — and that isn’t mentioning his improved free throws or all-league defensive traits. Nelson is great for a change of pace and in certain spots, but his time will come. You’ve got to ride McKnight. He now has 7+ assists in four of his last five games after doing so just four times in his career prior.
We’ve talked about “supporting cast” a lot, but the starting five carried the load tonight. You’ll see what Willard had to say about his second team when I update the radio quotes below, but they just didn’t get it done, directly reflecting in first half +/- stats. Once Gill started to produce in the second half, it complimented the defense being shown by the Q-Powell-Cale-Rhoden-Gill lineup; Willard also praised Rhoden’s defense.
This team is really living up to the hype. Winning at Madison Square Garden on Saturday could propel them much higher than 18th come Monday’s AP poll and KenPom predicts five fairly confident wins heading into a road game at Villanova in early February with Sandro back in the mix. Slumps happen, but this win is undeniably historic and comes with them firing at less than 100 percent, which is a scary thing for the rest of the league. The run can go on yet as the team shifts the window of truly “playing for seeding” closer and closer with each passing game.
Sandro seems to be recovering nicely. In his pregame radio interview, Willard said: “He looks great. He’s going to go through warm-ups tonight. He has no chance of playing, but the wrist looks really good. It’s healing the way it’s supposed to be healing. He’s still two weeks out.” That aligns with DePaul on the 29th or Xavier/Georgetown in early February to play it safe.
Post-game radio quotes from Kevin Willard
On what changed in the second half: “I thought Romaro Gill was so much better and active defensively. And our bench played unbelievable the other night and when the bench went in in the first half, we were under control, and they didn’t come in with the defensive intensity and we give [Jordan] Tucker two straight threes and I thought that took the momentum out of our sails early on. I was actually glad to only be down 10 at the half, I thought we were leaking oil there. I got after them at halftime. I wasn’t happy. That’s the first time I’ve been unhappy at halftime all year. .. I didn’t think we played very well, I didn’t think we played the way we needed to play.
“We came out in the second half and made a stop and got a bucket and had some momentum going a little bit and when you have a guy like Myles Powell, he just played phenomenal.”
On the press and zone slowing them down: “It’s how we played them all last year. Our man-to-man was great in the first ten minutes and then we couldn’t score and couldn’t press but the zone in the second half we were able to score and make them eat clock a little bit. … I thought Shavar Reynolds again, came in defensively and gave Q a break and made it tough for [Kamar] Baldwin.”
On Jared Rhoden’s clutch free throws and big three-pointer: “He did his own thing too. Myles cut back door and he popped out, I think everyone– I was surprised. Ike set a good screen. He’s a good shooter. He doesn’t get enough shots where he’s going to be at a high-level percentage, that changes as you get older but the energy that he brings on a nightly basis defensively is really good.”
On Quincy McKnight’s night: “We were able to get in some good pick-and-roll situations where we gave Myles some breaks and Quincy made some great decisions. Those two lobs to Ro’, I thought those were momentum killers. The crowd had gotten back into it. Two after timeouts. I said ‘He’s there, you’ve just got to trust him’ and he threw it up perfectly and Ro’ did a great job of going and getting it and finishing. It’s hard to defend Baldwin and then play the game he did, that’s why Shavar being out there on Kamar helped him out a little bit.”
On team’s ability to win on the road: “The thing I loved most about this– when I saw four of our first six on the road. … I’ve loved how we have come out and handled the road. As much as I disliked playing at Iowa State and at Rutgers early in December. This place got loud. I’ve never heard this place like this. It was at the 3:48 timeout and they were into it, they were loud. It was a different feeling in the huddle. [But] We didn’t have eyes looking up it was just kind of like lets get our breath and do what we have to do to win this game, it was a nice feeling.”
On Myles Powell passing Andre McCloud and Dan Callandrillo in career points (now 5th) and Terry Dehere in three-pointers, only trailing Jeremy Hazell: “The one he shot from 40, I was like wow that’s a new one. I keep telling everyone and I’m going to yell it from the rooftops, no one listens to me anyway. I keep telling everybody: He’s the best player in America. It’s scary. He’s battling a little tendinitis in his knee. Because he missed so much time in December, he’s the toughest son of a gun that I know, but he’s the best player in America. I’ll never ever forget being able to coach him because it’s so fun because of how much of a competitor he is. He wants to win, he wants to play at such a high level. Its fun to coach, it’s fun to watch, it really is.”