Isaiah Whitehead’s 21 points and five assists were not enough on Wednesday as the Seton Hall Pirates fell in heartbreaking fashion to the No. 4 Villanova Wildcats by the score of 72-71.
The Pirates were able to steal Villanova’s inbound pass with two seconds left, but Angel Delgado’s desperation heave from beyond half court did not come close. With the loss the Pirates fall to 13-5, 3-3 while the Wildcats improve to 17-2, 7-0.
Down one in the final seconds, the Pirates had an opportunity to tie the score with Whitehead at the line down 72-70, but made the second free throw while trying to intentionally miss.
“I was trying to miss it to Desi or Angel to tip it in, but I shot it and it went in,” he said.
In both halves Seton Hall fell behind early, but continued to battle back. One of the main reasons the Hall was able to remain in striking distance throughout the game was because Villanova center Daniel Ochefu was in foul trouble early. Ochefu erupted for 20 points and 18 rebounds in the teams’ previous meeting, but tonight he did not record his first basket until the 18:32 mark in the second half. He finished with six points and three rebounds.
Whitehead nailed a corner three to put the Pirates up 69-67 with 2:28 remaining, the Hall’s first lead since early in the first half. However, Villanova quickly responded with an Ochefu layup to knot the game back up at 69. Ryan Arcidiacono gave the Wildcats the lead for good when he drove straight to the basket for an uncontested layup to put Villanova ahead 71-69.
Villanova’s win can be credited to getting stops when they needed to. Following Arcidiacono’s go ahead basket, the Wildcats responded with a block by Ochefu on a Derrick Gordon layup attempt. After turning over the inbounds pass with eight seconds left on the clock, Villanova responded by forcing Seton Hall to do just the same.
After the game Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard remained optimistic despite the tough loss.
“This is a game you got to take a lot of positives from. I thought our effort was great. I thought we didn’t play our best defensively in the first half. I thought we really battled and stayed in it. There’s so many positives to take away from it, that’s what we focus on.”
All was not lost for the Pirates as experience in close games are important for a team growing and looking to improve. When asked if Seton Hall is an NCAA Tournament team, Villanova head coach Jay Wright responded with a resounding, “Hell Yeah.”
As for the game atmosphere, Prudential Center saw its greatest turnout of the season by far as 8,788 people packed into The Rock. The raucous crowd did not go unnoticed, according to sophomore guard Khadeen Carrington.
“I’ve never seen The Rock like that,” he said. “It was crazy. I think if fans come out like that every game we would definitely be a force to be reckon with. It’s going to be hard to lose a lot of games when the crowd is like that.”
The Pirates will face another top five team on Saturday as they head to Cincinnati to take on Xavier. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.
Matt Zeigafuse can be reached at email@example.com.