Sterling Gibbs step-back buzzer beater sends Pirates to semifinal round of Big East Tournament
A step-back jumper is nothing new to sophomore Sterling Gibbs’ repertoire, but on Thursday he used it send the Seton Hall men’s basketball team past No. 3 Villanova, 64-63, and into the semifinal round of the Big East Tournament.
With 3.7 seconds left freshman Jaren Sina, who had just hit a 3-pointer to give The Hall a temporary 62-61 lead, inbounded the ball to Gibbs.
Gibbs crossed up Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard, stepped back near the top of the key and knocked down the jumper at the buzzer.
“In the end, it was supposed to get in my hands,” Gibbs said of his buzzer beater. “I was supposed to create a shot for my teammates or create a shot for myself, and I just stepped back and hit the jumper.”
Hilliard, coincidentally, had just given the Wildcats a 63-62 lead after he knocked down a jumper that rattled home.
“It was big time,” Gibbs said. “You beat the No. 3 team in the country, it’s always a good feeling. You go into the game with the big game plan. You come into the tournament know that you have to win four games in four days. So to just get one step closer to that is definitely a great feeling.”
This win is now the second, one-point win the Pirates have had in 24 hours, and the second in which they allowed a big, second-half lead to slip away from them.
The Hall was up 13 points on the Wildcats, 44-31 with 14:12 left in the game. The No. 1-seed Wildcats stormed back, using a 16-0 run punctuated by a Hilliard 3-pointer to take a 3-point lead.
The Pirates remained scoreless for almost eight minutes of action until senior co-captain Fuquan Edwin hit a 3-pointer from the left corner, but according to head coach Kevin Willard, the team never lost confidence.
“We never really got rattled,” Willard said. “We got rattled a little bit when they jumped on us. When it was 47-44, we talked about getting back and getting stops. We got two big stops in a row and then (Edwin) hit a big three…”
The next six-plus minutes were back-and-forth basketball, with neither team giving much ground.
The difference-maker for the Pirates was their post presence in senior center Eugene Teague and junior forward Patrik Auda.
Teague, who has been suffering from the flu since Saturday, finished with his second double-double in as many games, this time with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Auda, who fouled out Wednesday against Butler, came out aggressively. He did most of his work in the first half, scoring 13 points and grabbing four rebounds.
Gibbs said that although he hit the game-winning shot, Teague and Auda deserved praise for the win.
“I think you should give (Auda) and (Teague) a lot more credit than me,” Gibbs said. “I just hit one shot, and they hit a whole lot more shots than I did. They kept us in the game.”
The Pirates will play the winner of Providence and St. John’s in the semifinal round of the Big East Tournament. This will be the first time since 2001 that The Hall has made it to the semifinals.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
T.J. Brennan can be reached at email@example.com.