Philadelphia, Pa. — For a strong 30 minutes, it looked like Seton Hall was going to threaten to end their 16-game, 14-year drought at top-ranked Villanova, but there just wasn’t enough in the tank.
A key ingredient in just about any upset, particularly on the road, is made three-pointers. And it looked like the Hall (17-6, 6-4) had turned a corner with 9:44 to play when Myles Powell (17 pts) sank his second consecutive three to make it a 62-60 game.
But the late salvo from Seton Hall’s sniper — the Hall had only drilled a pair of threes to that point — would come just a fraction too late as the visitors were already operating on borrowed time after the gas light came on just a few minutes prior.
The game-changing moment came at the 13:21 mark of the second half when Khadeen Carrington (10 pts, 4 asts) picked up his fourth foul on a moving screen just a few feet from Kevin Willard and Seton Hall’s bench.
“The fourth foul on Khadeen really kind of changed the momentum of the game. It put him on the bench, even though I thought we did a pretty good job,” said Willard of the final ten minutes.
“I thought Eron [Gordon] and Jordan [Walker] did a good job and just kind of changed the whole momentum for us, because he [Khadeen] was doing a really good job on [Jalen] Brunson.”
“I thought Khadeen was doing a great job the whole game, so losing him, it gave those guys a lot of confidence,” remarked Angel Delgado (18 pts, 9 rebs). “The other team saw that and with Jalen having a little guy on him, he just went to work.”
The untimely whistle looked familiar, as Desi Rodriguez (20 pts, 7 rebs) had picked up his third foul with 6:19 in the first half after playing the better part of ten minutes with two; the foul trouble undoubtedly handicapped the Hall to a degree.
“I have no thoughts on anything like that, whatsoever,” Willard would add, when specifically asked about today’s officiating.
Up against what currently looks like the best team in the country in addition to their No. 1 ranking, the extra weight on Seton Hall’s shoulders was too much of a burden in front of 16,115 amped up Philadelphians.
After scoring his team’s first seven points, do-everything forward Omari Spellman (26 pts, 11 rebs, 6-7 3pt) landed the long-range knock-out blow on a stumbling but barely conscious Seton Hall just prior to the final media timeout.
“I’ll be honest with you: Four of his threes were contested. I mean, when a guy like that makes shots like that, you’re going to have a hard time beating them,” said Willard of Spellman. “You’ve got to give the kid credit — he got it going — but anytime a guy goes off like that, you’re going to have a long night.”
And while the final score more closely resembles a rout than a hard-fought Big East contest, there are positives that Seton Hall can take away from this one, and it starts with the strength of their opponent.
For one, I spoke to a pair of Villanova season ticket holders who said this was the best their team has played all year; other neutrals outside of the Wildcats camp would agree.
When asked if there was a moral victory to take away from playing the top-ranked team on the road close for 30 minutes, Kevin Willard tipped his cap.
“They’re a good basketball team. On the road, you can’t let them make twelve threes. You let a home team make twelve threes, you’re going to be in for a long night,” said Willard.
“I think we could play better, I think we could do a couple of different things. But like I said, they’re a good basketball team, and on the road — you better play — you’ve got to almost play perfect when you play Villanova on the road, and I thought we did a really good job for a lot of the game.”