In a tough afternoon in Newark, the Villanova Wildcats fell 79-75 to a suddenly red-hot Seton Hall Pirates squad. The loss means Villanova will have to wait for later results on Saturday to learn their Big East Tournament seed.
Villanova looked exactly like a team that had the week off - their early play filled with sloppy play and unforced errors, and the Pirates were more than happy to take advantage of the Wildcats’ 8 turnovers.
While both teams shot the ball incredibly well, Seton Hall absolutely destroyed Villanova on the offensive glass in the opening period. Nearly all of their 8 offensive rebounds led directly to points.
Compounding the Wildcats’ struggles was Phil Booth’s 2 early fouls which forced him to sit for nearly half of the opening period. He and Eric Paschall combined for just 8 points, forcing Collin Gillespie into hero duty. He responded well with 13 points to keep the Wildcats from a blowout before the intermission.
The Pirates went into the half up 39-28.
The second half started much like the first with, with the ‘Cats seemingly still asleep and Seton Hall extending their lead. But things quickly turned in Villanova’s favor courtesy of an 13-0 run to get within 3 points. The run was highlighted by a thunderous Paschall dunk that silenced the Prudential Center.
The teams traded runs over the next several minutes, with the game constantly staying within arm’s reach for the Wildcats. Foul trouble didn’t help ‘Nova, as its defense became less aggressive and allowed Seton Hall to attack with success.
The unsung story of the game: Myles Cale and Jared Rhoden’s shooting. Cale (28% on the season) and Rhoden (20%) combined to go 9-12 from downtown to carry the Pirates. Sometimes, the odds betray you.
Though the ‘Cats extended the game admirably and Seton Hall missed plenty of free throws, Villanova couldn’t close the gap late on and hung on for the win.
Villanova will await the outcome of the Marquette-Georgetown and St. John’s-Xavier games to see if they win the Big East Championship outright, and whether they have the #1 or #2 seed next week at Madison Square Garden.