NEWARK — In what has been a constant theme for Seton Hall (11-3, 1-1) over the past month, the Pirates pulled victory from the jaws of defeat in a 69-66 grind-it-out win over Marquette on New Year’s Day.
If you told me Seton Hall would turn the ball over on five of seven possessions coming out of the under-four media timeout in a tie ballgame and still win, I probably wouldn’t believe you.
But that’s exactly what the Pirates did to pick up their first Big East win of the season against a Marquette team coming off a smooth victory over Georgetown.
“We talked about it at halftime, in the league this year you’re going to be in more games like this than easy games,” said Kevin Willard of their close win.
“We did the little things to gut out a win. Every once in a while — you can’t win pretty all the time.”
Although they were up against a group with only eight scholarships due to mid-season transfers and a lower body injury to Duane Wilson, Seton Hall was not close to 100-percent on Sunday.
“We’re all battling the flu a little bit,” said Willard.
“I’m getting over it, Jevon [Thomas] just has it, Angel [Delgado] is getting over it, Ish [Sanogo] is getting over it, Desi [Rodriguez] has it. We’ve been battling the last two weeks to be honest with you. We’ve traveled so much, I think it has worn us down a little bit … We’ve just been on the move so much, a lot of guys are battling not only mental fatigue but physical fatigue.”
Willard’s claim was substantiated a bit when Delgado — who picked up his eighth consecutive double-double — gave interviews with a doctor’s note in his hand.
Despite the conditions and a self-inflicted turnover count of 17, Seton Hall came alive when it counted.
“Sloppy, hectic, it was just a slug-fest,” said Ish Sanogo (8 pts, 8 rebs), who reeled in a vital offensive rebound and picked up a critical steal with under a minute to play.
“It wasn’t pretty but we battled through and won.”
“That’s just a will to win,” said Khadeen Carrington of the frantic finish that he also played a large part in.
“I played terrible the whole game, everyone didn’t play overly well. Those are just the plays you’ve got to make to win. I knew we couldn’t lose this game.”
Immediately down four due to two turnovers coming out of the final media timeout, it sure looked like Seton Hall would lose the game.
But the way in which Seton Hall prevailed didn’t even surprise Carrington, whose offensive rebound on Sanogo’s missed free-throw after Sanogo did the same following a Carrington missed freebie seconds prior helped seal the win.
“That’s things we harp on in practice,” he said of the chaos. “Coach makes us focus on those types of things. We’re not shooting free throws overly well, so we work on that every day, getting offensive rebounds off of foul shots. Today, we did two great jobs of it — I got one and Ish got one, so that’s great execution.”
Leading by two with the shot clock off following the wild series of scrums under Marquette’s basket, Sanogo then picked JaJuan Johnson’s pocket on the ensuing possession.
“I could see it in his eyes, that he was going for the win. I kind of gambled, I think I had [Katin] Reinhardt in the corner, so it was iffy,” said Sanogo of his big steal. “I looked in his face and he wasn’t looking to pass so I said ‘OK, I’m going to gamble.'”
The gamble paid off, but Seton Hall wasn’t out of the clear.
Carrington would make one of two free-throws, setting Marquette up with a chance to tie with only a few ticks left on the clock.
Marquette wouldn’t even get a chance.
“We were going to foul,” said Carrington of Madison Jones’ steal on the game’s final play. “We were going to go for the steal and if we didn’t get it, we were going to foul.”
The steal came, so the foul never did.
Seton Hall now gets a week off to get rid of the flu bug in time for DePaul, who come to town next Saturday.