After trailing by 16 points with 10:38 to play, Seton Hall cut their deficit to just a point with 10 seconds remaining, but a Long Beach State offensive rebound off a missed front-end free throw sealed the deal for the 49ers in an 80-77 first round win at the Charleston Classic.
Looking done and dusted down 16 midway through the second half, Seton Hall received a big spark from Mike Nzei who scored six quick points off the bench to catalyze a 7-0 Seton Hall run that initiated a comeback that would fall just short.
The game began in a pleasing, free-flowing, energetic fashion that saw Seton Hall as the initiator. Leading by a bucket at the first media timeout, Kevin Willard inserted Myles Carter, who hadn’t seen a minute this season, and Mike Nzei for Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez, which iced the Pirates’ momentum a bit.
The Beach was able to drive and dish on Seton Hall’s zone early on, leading to a handful of high percentage shots around the rim that jump-started a 49ers offense that started firing on all cylinders. Long Beach State hit 13 of their first 18 shots while a pulsating Nick Faust (16 pts) hit several three-pointers early.
Seton Hall played even with the Big West school until Long Beach State closed the first half on an 11-3 run that featured three Pirate turnovers after the Hall had coughed it up just four times in the opening 16 minutes.
Seton Hall wouldn’t see the lead again.
The Beach rode their momentum into the second period by completely controlling the first ten minutes, subsequently building a 16-point advantage, their biggest of the night.
Down 11 with 12 to play and coming out of a called timeout, Isaiah Whitehead turned the ball over and then Long Beach State drilled an open three to top off their commanding start to the second half.
The Hall would claw their way back into the game by way of Nzei’s six-point outburst, Isaiah Whitehead’s 21 points, an impressive second half from Khadeen Carrington (15 pts) and surprisingly without Angel Delgado for at least the last eight-plus minutes of the game. Willard explained Delgado being relegated to the bench as a way to deal with the 49ers’ size, which is a legitimate move that did work, although the reasoning for not inserting Delgado back into the game late on is questionable.
Trailing 76-72 with 58 seconds to play and the Hall with fouls to give, Kevin Willard opted for Seton Hall to not foul, resulting in a missed Long Beach State three. Desi Rodriguez then called his team’s final timeout the first possession out of a lengthy stoppage to clean up Travis Hammonds’ blood off the court, which was followed by a big-time Carrington three to get his team within one for the first time since the first half.
After fouling Hammonds intentionally, the big man missed the front end of his free throws but wasn’t blocked out by Derrick Gordon or Rodriguez, a sequence with painfully ended in an offensive rebound and two made free throws prior to Carrington missing a game-tying three as time expired.
Seton Hall’s first loss of the season is a bitter pill to swallow as it directs them to the Charleston Classic losers bracket, which will only hurt their RPI, though Ole Miss did get upset by George Mason earlier on Thursday.
The Pirates play again tomorrow night await the loser of Bradley and No. 6 Virginia.