New York, N.Y. – In one of the most tightly contested games of the season, the Seton Hall men’s basketball team edged the St. John’s Red Storm on Saturday afternoon inside Madison Square Garden, 81-74, in overtime.
Khadeen Carrington ran down the court and finished the contest off with a dunk with five seconds remaining in the extra period. A sight not normally seen from the 6-foot, 4-inch guard, it was a fittingly unusual way to end what was a bizarre week for Seton Hall.
It started on Wednesday night, when court condensation caused the team’s game with Providence to be suspended and finished the next afternoon. The Pirates won the battle, but lost the public relations war, when on Friday, it was revealed that former star Isaiah Whitehead received $37,657 in payments from sports agency ASM Sports.
“We’ve already hired an outside law firm to come in and do an investigation,” head coach Kevin Willard said after the game.
“We are going to be 100 percent open, we’re going to be 100 percent…honest, and, I have a lot of confidence in my staff and ourselves and what we’ve done in the past,” Willard went on to say. “And, I’m glad the school has moved quickly on this, so we can move on from it.”
When pressed further about how the news reflected on the program that he has spent seven years building up, Willard reiterated his pride in the entirety of the men’s basketball program.
“I’ve got great players in my program, great kids, and a perfect graduation rate,” Willard said. “And, guys doing a lot of stuff. So, I like where my program is at.”
Perhaps with a chip on their shoulder, the Pirates fought hard, down their leading scorer Desi Rodriguez who is day-to-day with an ankle injury. Despite his absence, Seton Hall still exhibited a deeper team, as seen in the fact that 10 players featured for Willard’s Pirates, compared to only six for Chris Mullin’s Red Storm.
Still, those six players for St. John’s were able to carry a Red Storm team looking for a fourth Big East win in five conference games.
Shamorie Ponds, who finished with a game-high 25 points, glided to the rim with his team down by two, and finished to tie the game at 68 with 51 seconds to go.
That play would not have happened if it wasn’t for Marvin Clark II, as the junior transfer from Michigan State won the rebound off a Ponds missed three at the shot-clock buzzer. Clark II, who finished with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds, was an inspiration with both faraway shots and high-flying finishes at the rim.
Myles Powell was able to garner the foul from Ponds after skipping past him on the next possession though, and made both his free throws to give the Pirates a 70-68 lead with 38 ticks left. Ponds, in a role reversal, got Powell to foul him, and the sophomore from Brooklyn, N.Y. made both his free throws to pull the teams level at 70.
After a Carrington slip forced a poor shot from Powell at the buzzer, both teams entered five extra minutes of basketball, but the Pirates had the fresher legs. Seton Hall never gave up the lead in overtime, as Angel Delgado gave the team the lead 14 seconds in with a layup, and then again on the 4:00 mark. From there, the Pirates used free throws and the game-capping dunk to capture the grudge-match victory.
Delgado finished with a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds, fighting the ailments of a dislocated knee and injured shoulder. As if that was not enough, Delgado took an inadvertent shot to the face by teammate Michael Nzei, but the 6-foot, 10-inch man was not going to take himself out of the game for long.
“I’m a warrior; I’m always going to come fight back” Delgado said. “I’m not letting my team down right now because something hurts. If something hurts, it’s got to go away at some point. So, I’m always there, I’m always ready to play.
Carrington, meanwhile, finished with a team-high 22 points, including four made free throws in overtime that ensured the win for the blue and white. The result gives Seton Hall its 20th win – the first time Seton Hall has had three consecutive 20 win seasons since 1991-93 – and improves its conference record to 9-7.
After a week that tested the Pirates limits on and off the court, Seton Hall now has the monumental task of No. 3 Villanova, who will come to the Prudential Center on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
Kevin Willard and company may not be able to escape the scrutiny that will come from all angles in the coming weeks, but that is not what is on the minds of players and coaches, as the team begins to see March in the foreground.
“When I walked into the locker-room, I mean, you can’t get away from [the news of Whitehad]; it’s on ESPN, it’s on FS1, it’s on…it’s everywhere,” Willard said. “But we’re focused on this team and what we’re doing, and, I’m enjoying coaching these seniors. It’s the last few weeks I’m going to have them, I’m enjoying every second with them, because I’m going to miss them tremendously.”
James Justice can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.