Nzei, McKnight lead Seton Hall to Wooden Legacy Championship

The Seton Hall Pirates came out on top in a back-and-forth affair over Miami on Sunday evening to clinch the Wooden Legacy Championship. Despite going 1-for-9 on field goals in the waning minutes, the Pirates were able to pull out the victory on the back of timely defensive rebounds and misses by the Hurricanes.

Throughout the night, Quincy McKnight and Michael Nzei led the way for Seton Hall. Nzei led all scorers with 21 points, which was a career high and McKnight had a stellar second half and played well defensively all game. With the game close in score midway through the second half, McKnight picked up five straight points from a drive and a three-pointer to give the Pirates some much-needed breathing room. Myles Powell was also his usual self, but ultimately not as spectacular as he was earlier in the tournament. He ended the night with 17 points, including four from beyond the arc.

The most noteworthy moment for Powell, however, came off a turnover. With 16 seconds to play, Powell lost the handle on a drive to the rim and turned over possession. Miami’s Anthony Lawrence II got a wide-open look with a few seconds to play, but ultimately missed and Myles Cale came down with a hard-fought defensive rebound.

The game ended just as it started – neck and neck. The teams traded baskets during the first half and it proved to be the theme for the night. At the third media timeout of the first half, Seton Hall and Miami found themselves gridlocked at 30.

At the half, the game was tied at 45 off Nzei’s 10 points. Jared Rhoden also chipped in eight points in the first half, a career-high and his total for the night.

As the second half rolled on, another large momentum swing for the Pirates came on behalf of Taurean Thompson. He got his first bucket after euro-stepping to a dunk inside and then following a defensive stop, he came back down one-on-one with his defender and cashed in on a layup.

The Hurricanes were forced to burn a timeout at that point, but they eventually came back on a 6-0 run to regain a three-point advantage.

McKnight then went on his five-point spree followed by another Powell three-pointer. The sequence embodied the resilient mantra that the Pirates played with all night. Despite how often the Hurricanes came down the floor and knocked down a long-range jump shot, Seton Hall was able to claw back and keep itself in the game.

It was a worthy effort against a March Madness bound team and the win, in a sense, makes up for the heartbreaking defeat to St. Louis. Come Selection Sunday, the committee will look at Seton Hall’s Quadrant 1 victory in a positive light.

The Pirates return to action back home on Dec. 1 against Louisville at 12  p.m. EST. It is the second of a home-and-home series between the two teams and features former Xavier head coach Chris Mack’s return to the Prudential Center.

Kevin Kopf can be reached at kevin.kopf@student.shu.edu or on Twitter @KMKTNF.

Author: Kevin Kopf

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