Another Seton Hall game was defined in the final minute Friday, but this one was the Pirates’ last game of the season.
The game result was a 77-71 Seton Hall loss to Arkansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.
Building as large as an eight-point lead with 9:29 left in the game, Seton Hall was the victim of turnovers and foul calls down the stretch. A flagrant foul on Desi Rodriguez with 18 seconds left ultimately put the win out of reach for Seton Hall.
“I’m just heartbroken, loss of words right now,” Rodriguez said. “This is a tough way to end a season.”
Seton Hall had a difficult time scoring as the game winded down. After the team made a strong run in the middle of the second half, it made just one of its last 11 shots. Meanwhile, Arkansas went on a 7-0 run over the last minute of the game.
Kevin Willard noted that Seton Hall had to take care of the ball.
“We shouldn’t have been in that situation, to be honest with you,” the coach said. “We were up one with the ball with 1:20 left, I think, somewhere in that range. We turn it over, we come down, miss a layup. We had the chance.”
Rodriguez doesn’t believe the flagrant call was solely responsible for the loss.
“I wouldn’t blame [the loss] on just that last call, I blame it on the way we handled the ball down the stretch,” Rodriguez said. “We didn’t take care of the ball, we didn’t get stops down the stretch.”
When asked about the flagrant foul call, both Willard and the players backed up the decision by the referees.
“I think they did a really good job with it,” Angel Delgado said. “If they thought it’s a flagrant foul, it’s a flagrant foul.”
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson thought the flagrant call was a no-brainer.
“I thought it was no play on the ball. That’s as simple as that,” Anderson said. “There was no play on the ball. He pushed the guy down. You saw it. I saw it. I mean, what’s borderline when you say, you know what, he didn’t play on the ball.”
Arkansas used a fast pace to set the tone of the game, living up to its nickname The Fastest 40. Arkansas was powered all game by Moses Kingsley, who put up 15 points in the first half and a team-high 23 points on the game. Seton Hall didn’t have a stop for him.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Delgado said on his matchup with Kingsley. “We just was playing hard, and we both battled.”
Even with Arkansas dominating offensively in the first half, Seton Hall used its advantage on the boards to keep itself in the game. There were many second chances, as SHU recorded 21 offensive rebounds on the game to Arkansas’ eight.
Both Madison Jones and Myles Powell put up strong performances in their first NCAA games. Jones put up 11 points, while Powell was relentless on both offense and defense, sacrificing his body to save the ball and take charges.
Carrington led Seton Hall with 22 points on the game. His shots were what sparked a 12-2 SHU run in the second half, and his and-1 plays throughout the game kept up the Pirates’ momentum.
Now, all the players can do is look back on the season that they had.
“It was an unbelievable season,” Delgado said. “Everybody worked hard, everybody did good things. That was a great year.”
When asked about his future, Delgado said he will make his decision in the next few weeks whether to stay at Seton Hall or play professionally.
“Next for me right now is to go and see my family,” the country’s top rebounder said. “I’ll call the decision like in two weeks.”
Seton Hall finished with a 21-12 record on the year, which culminated in its second straight NCAA Tournament berth. Both resulted in first-round losses.
“It’s tough. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s tough,” Willard said. “It’s going to be tough for [the players]. It’s hard when you lose and you have a game. But that’s hoops, man. That’s ball. It’s life. You’ve got to bounce back, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in these guys, how we’ll do and how we’ll bounce back next year.”
Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @eswint22.