NEWARK (N.J.) — You could tell the basketball gods had their finger on the scale in this one. A late, wild comeback from Seton Hall fell just short on Myles Powell’s Senior Night as Villanova got revenge in a frantic 79-77 win.
The Pirates (21-8, 13-14) were a half second and a half inch away from a walk-off Big East title win.
But the stars just couldn’t quite align in an epic game in front of a record 16,863 crowd at Prudential Center.
A 90th-percentile free throw shooting team coming in, Villanova clanged seven in the final 63 seconds to give Seton Hall chance after chance after many fans had already left their seats for the exits when the Wildcats led by eight with 2:47 at the final media timeout.
A decent but missed off-balance three from Myles Powell with seconds left preceded a Myles Cale’s just-late and just-off three after the horn in a heart-breaker.
“Emotional. Emotional. This is rough, this one is rough,” said a dejected Powell in perhaps his roughest interview to date.
“It’s my last time here. Didn’t go out as I wanted to, but I mean we fought. I don’t know what you guys want me to say.”
After a historic win in Philadelphia a month ago, Seton Hall was so close to making it a double.
The Pirates expelled a ton of energy during the early and middle portion of the second half just trying to get within a couple possessions, and yet somehow still had enough in the tank to make this all sorts of dramatic in the final minute.
“We’re a team that’s not going to give up. We fought until we saw zeroes on the clock,” said Powell of the desperate rally.
“We still had a chance to win the game. I just wish it could have turned out a little better. My little brothers, they left it all out there for me tonight, not only me, but [for] the seniors: Quincy and Ro.”
Powell’s shot when fading to his strong side with seconds left would have tied it and gave Villanova a chance to win with a few seconds. It looked like Powell and Jared Rhoden got tied up at the top of the arc on a screen, yet Powell was still able to get off a decent look.
“Sandro had it, me and Jared both kind of went to the ball, I didn’t know who he was going to throw it to and I just tried to get it up there,” recalled Powell. “I didn’t want to waste any time. … I was just trying to get it up there and send it into overtime.”
Cale’s attempt left his hand after the buzzer, but he was fairly open in the corner while trailing by two after Quincy McKnight drove to the elbow and kicked it to him.
“I didn’t– we didn’t really know what we were going to do honestly,” admitted McKnight of the very last play.
“We were kind of just scrambling and he [Saddiq Bey] missed both of them and we came down, I think it was supposed to be a double screen. I don’t even remember honestly.
“I just drove it and they helped strong side and Myles Cale was right there in the corner and I just passed it, it was instinctive to make the right pass, he was wide open. We get a .6 or anything left on the clock, or M.C. gets a little more time to get that shot off I knew he was going to knock it down.”
With just one timeout to use over the final 14 minutes of the game and so many situational plays to deal with, the confusion is excusable and McKnight isn’t wrong: Cale was open and just needed a half second more.
“It hurts, it definitely does hurt, the feeling hurts to lose like that on Senior Night,” continued McKnight.
“Fought back and to get the last shot and to almost win the game on that shot, it would have been kind of– it’s kind of weird.
“When Saddiq [Bey] was going to the free throw line, I was kind of talking to him like ‘Make this night magical for us, just miss these two free throws,'” said McKnight.
“And he ended up missing the two free throws which was kind of crazy for us and we just couldn’t capitalize.”
From a pregame dinner with plenty of diced onions the night prior, to the conclusion of the game, its been an emotionally charged 36 hours.
It started with Myles Powell and tears streaming down his face. And ended with Quincy McKnight pulling his jersey over his head as the alma mater played post-game, prior to some collective tears in the locker room.
“I love this basketball team, I love their heart. I love how much it means to them, I love the fact that they’re all hurting right now,” said Kevin Willard.
“If they didn’t care and it didn’t hurt, then they wouldn’t bounce back. But they do. They’re all in there crying, and I was like, ‘Everyone just chill out, we’ve still got a game left and we’ve got a Big East tournament, we’ve got an NCAA Tournament, we’re going to have the best seed we’ve ever had.’
“I’ve got very high expectations for this basketball team.”