Despite leading for 30:46 of game time, it was not enough for Seton Hall to hang on for a win against Louisville.
Seton Hall ended the game shooting two of its last 11 and Myles Powell’s look from beyond the arc to tie the game in the closing seconds was no good, giving Louisville a 70-65 victory on Saturday afternoon.
Throughout the afternoon, Seton Hall had sizeable leads, but multiple scoring droughts allowed Louisville to get back into the game. In the first half, the Pirates led by as many as 12 and with 14 minutes remaining in the second half, Seton Hall had built a 52-43 lead. From there, the Pirates went cold, Louisville started cashing in from deep and the Cardinals stormed back to put Seton Hall away down the stretch.
“Offensively, we have to learn at times and understand when to run offense and when to be more aggressive,” Kevin Willard said. “We got some good looks late, but I thought we took a couple of shots that kind of left them get in transition and get some easy looks.”
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Fresh off a Wooden Legacy championship, Seton Hall stormed out of the gates against a Louisville team that has been playing well to build a 9-5 lead by the under-16 timeout and a 17-7 lead approaching the under-12 timeout.
Following the timeout, the momentum began to swing in Louisville’s favor with Dwayne Sutton checking in and catching fire from three. Behind two threes from Sutton, the Cardinals ripped off a 13-2 run and cut the lead to 21-20. Seton Hall responded nicely, though, scoring six straight points of its own to make it a 28-22 game.
From there, the two teams traded blows before Louisville took a 36-34 lead into the locker room. The beginning of the second half mirrored Seton Hall’s hot start in the first half, as the Pirates jumped ahead and held a nine-point lead approaching the under-12 timeout. As Sutton did in the first half, Louisville sharpshooter Ryan McMahon, who finished with nine points, stepped up and hit consecutive threes to make it 52-49.
After Louisville got itself back into the game, Seton Hall went cold from the field and missed 11 of its next 12 shots until a Myles Cale two-handed slam in transition brought an end to the drought and made it 59-54. Louisville responded with a 7-0 run while Seton Hall went cold again, this time to the tune of a 1-10 drought over a 2:50 span to jump back out in front, 61-59.
Down the stretch, the lead changed hands multiple times and with 54 seconds remaining, Myles Powell, who led all scorers with 23 points, came down and drilled a three to make it 63-62. Seton Hall got a stop on defense and came back down with a chance to take the lead, but a bad offensive possession which ended in a Myles Cale miss gave Louisville the ball back with the lead intact.
Immediately after the Cale miss, Louisville called a timeout to set up its offense. A missed shot led to a scrum for the rebound, which was corralled by Christen Cunningham, led to a wide-open McMahon three from the top of the key to make it 66-62 with 30 seconds remaining.
“We played good pick and roll defense, we switched, we stopped them and you have to give Cunningham credit for finding him,” Willard said. “Those scramble situations are something we’re getting better at, but late in the game, you can’t lose a guy like McMahon. He won’t miss it.”
What seemed to be the dagger did not stand for long, as Sandro Mamukelashvili was fouled at the other end. Mamukelashvili went 1-2 at the free throw line to make it 66-63 before Seton Hall trapped McMahon on the ensuing inbound pass. The trap forced McMahon into an errant pass, which was picked off by Anthony Nelson. Nelson finished through contact at the rim to make it 66-65 with 15 seconds remaining.
After Nelson’s heroics, Seton Hall was forced to play the fouling game and Jordan Nwora stepped up to the line and calmly drained two free throws to make it 68-65 with 10 seconds left. With one last chance to tie, Seton Hall called timeout and drew up a play for Powell, but Powell’s shot missed the rim entirely and Louisville put the game away at the free throw line.
The loss marks the second time this season where Seton Hall was unable to close out a game at home. While the Pirates’ comeback effort against Saint Louis fell short, Seton Hall failed to hang onto a lead in the late stages this time around.
“I feel like sometimes we think too much. We have to stay together,” Mamukelashvili said of Seton Hall’s performances down the stretch. “It’s hard, we’re a young team, so every time it comes down to the wire, everyone’s a little stressed. We have to chill a little bit and trust each other more. It’s hard, when you lose in the last second. It shows how hard you battled throughout the whole game and it’s hard to lose in the last second.”
“I think as time goes on, with experience, we’re going to go back and see what we did wrong,” Michael Nzei said. “Obviously, coach is going to tell us stuff we could’ve done and from there, we can pick it up from there. We’ll learn from this.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.