Big East Tourney showed Hall’s heart
Last week was one of the highlights of my college career.
I was able to spend three-straight days at Madison Square Garden covering the basketball team’s run through the Big East Tournament.
During the first round last Wednesday, I have to admit, I was indifferent to the outcome of the game. The eighth-seeded Pirates were facing ninth-seeded Butler.
This was the same Butler team that defeated the Pirates twice during the season, including a 71-54 win just four days before their tournament meeting.
The Pirates didn’t quite feel that way.
Senior center Eugene Teague was dominant down the stretch, scoring his team’s final six points.
Teague was battling the flu during the game, but still recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“This was my last go-round,” Teague said. “I wasn’t going to sit it out. I was going to battle through it.”
After I heard that he refused to sit out, my mindset started to change.
I had always defended the heart of this team, a team riddled with injuries over the last two seasons, a team that never gave up.
After the press conference, I looked at my cellphone and saw that in about 14 hours, this team would be on the court again facing the top seed, and the then-No. 3 Villanova Wildcats.
Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think that the Pirates would come out on top.
In the history of Seton Hall basketball, the team had never come out on top against a team ranked higher than No. 4 in the polls.
But these Pirates didn’t seem to care.
After Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard knocked down a floater to give Villanova a 63-62 lead, the Pirates, who at one point held a 13-point second-half lead, didn’t seem fazed.
Freshman Jaren Sina inbounded the ball to sophomore Sterling Gibbs, who faked out Hilliard, stepped back and knocked down a jumper from near the top of the key.
“It was big time,” Gibbs said of his game-winning shot. “You beat the No. 3 team in the country, it’s always a good feeling. You go into the tournament knowing that you have to win four games in four days. So to just get one step closer to that is definitely a great feeling.”
I’ll say it right now. This will probably be the best, most exciting game/moment that I will ever cover.
Seeing the Pirates run around the hardwood of Madison Square Garden will forever be ingrained in my memory.
“These guys have a lot of heart,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “They have a lot of character, and they deserve to win.”
Willard could not be more right.
Through a seemingly endless cycle of injuries, departures, distractions and suspensions one thing remained constant with the Pirates.
They never gave up. Despite five one-point losses on the season, the Pirates never quit on themselves throughout the year.
From the Chase Bridge in Madison Square Garden, I could see the determination and the effort they put forth in all three games at the Big East Tournament.
Even in the team’s loss to Providence in the semifinal round, the team showed its resiliency, continuing to battle back from large second half deficits.
The experience at the Garden taught me a couple lessons about Seton Hall basketball.
The first is that this is a team that 100 percent believes in themselves and believes they can beat any team on any day.
The second is that it’s an exciting time to be a fan of Seton Hall basketball.
Next season, the team will have a mix of experience and young, intriguing talent.
The third is that next year, Patrik Auda will be a force for the team next year.
He’ll be entering his fifth year at the Hall and will provide a wealth of experience for the incoming recruiting class.
For the returners to the team, the run in the Big East Tournament is an experience on which the team can build.
T.J. Brennan is a senior journalism major from Long Island, N.Y. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.