NEWARK — Seton Hall played No. 4 Villanova even tougher than the first meeting, but yet again fell short, 69-68, in overtime.
It started as a rock fight, then it looked like the Wildcats would run away yet again, and then things escalated quickly as one of the better basketball games at Prudential Center unfolded in front of 13,711.
After falling behind 36-25 with 12:48 left in the second half, eight unanswered points from Myles Powell (13 pts, 6 asts, 5-19 fg) resuscitated the hosts to the tune of a 14-2 run that would set up a frantic finish.
Down two and a half starters with Desi Rodriguez (ankle) sidelined, Ish Sanogo (sprained ankle) alongside him for the final eight-plus minutes of regulation, and Myles Cale (cramp) writhing in pain on the end of the bench, Seton Hall’s best chance to pull off the upset would come in regulation.
“I’m very impressed with Seton Hall to be playing without one of the best players in the league, and to compete like that, they were outstanding,” said Villanova’s Jay Wright.
Trailing 52-51 following a pair of Khadeen Carrington (23 pts, 7 rebs, 7 asts) free throws, Seton Hall was able to force an empty Villanova trip that gave the Pirates the ball and the clock off.
Mirroring the play which cut their deficit to one, Carrington drove to the tin again, but wound up splitting the pair with a chance to take the lead.
It was the only free throw he’d miss on the night.
“If you seen the shot, it hit back rim, front rim and then came out. Me and Coach have been working on my shots, to us that’s a good shot,” said Carrington of the fateful trip.
“I put it up there with confidence, I just missed, it came short. We should have been going home in regulation, but I put that on myself.”
Despite a late overtime rally via a surprise Eron Gordon three and a forced five-second violation, it always felt like Villanova was in control in extra time after Seton Hall defended their final possession in regulation well, like they did for most of the night.
“It was the same thing they’ve shown me all year,” said Kevin Willard of his team’s performance.
“The toughness has been great. Their resilience when we got down, just the way they fought, really proud of the way these guys played tonight.”
“In this league when you play a game like this and both teams battle, I couldn’t be more proud of my guys. I hate losing, but when you go out and leave it all on the floor like these guys did, I thought both teams contributed to just a high level game. Sometimes you lose those games. We lost by a point.”
“I told them on the court, it’s tough to lose but if we play like that every night we’re not going to lose a lot of games,” said Seton Hall’s MVP, Carrington.
“Everybody from myself down to Phil (Flory) came in and gave us great minutes. That’s what we’re going to need down the stretch.”