The second half of the Citi Hoops Classic awakened a sleeping giant, as Myles Powell heroically drained a potential game-winning three, only to be followed by an absurd Kentucky half-court prayer that forced overtime in dramatic fashion. Powell erupted for 22 second-half points and unselfishly shared the ball that later found Myles Cale for the dagger shot, leading the Pirates to an 84-83 upset over No. 9 Kentucky.
Students, alumni, and even Seton Hall transfer center, Ike Obiagu, filled train cars that were headed into New York Penn Station, as the rowdy Pirate faithful packed into Madison Square Garden.
The Pirates were anything but rattled by the atmosphere, hitting five field goals in the opening minutes of the game – including Powell’s only make of the first half.
What makes Powell’s performance remarkable is the shot difficulty and consistency he had. Powell did not have an open three-pointer in the last five minutes of the game and in overtime. Kentucky threw multiple bodies on him on the day, and Powell managed to shoot at a 54 percent clip from three and went 9-for-16 from the field on his way to 28 points.
After taking a charge to win the Pirates the ball back, Powell curled off double screens from Taurean Thompson and Jared Rhoden and drained the game-tying three over the outstretched arms of Kentucky’s leading scorer, P.J. Washington.
With the game deadlocked at 70 and the clock ticking, Powell dribbled near the left elbow and attempted to freeze a Kentucky defender. He then went towards the corner, did a step-back and – somehow – made the three with a defender draped all over him, double-pumping on his release.
Powell spoke on his steady mindset throughout the game that enabled him to hit the shot.
“My coach tells me to always be ready, tells my teammates to always be ready because you never know when the ball is going to come your way,” Powell said. “You know they were just around the arc, took my time, it got me, pump fake and it went in.”
The most important thing Powell mentioned is patience and being ready. Going one-of-four from the field in the first half can be derailing to a player’s confidence, especially under a circumstance where many expect Powell to perform.
In overtime, Powell used the attention he garnered to allow others to score. He slowed down the tempo at the top of the key and found Quincy McKnight for an easy alley-oop to put the team up by four. With the team down by one, Powell stepped into a left elbow three and made it – this time with two defenders contesting the shot.
The decision on the last possession by Powell, to pass off a bad look at three, was perhaps his smartest play of the game. The offensive reset allowed for a higher quality shot, as Thompson dished it off to Cale for an open three.
Powell’s performance simultaneously did three things: it proved that the Pirates can be a lot better than the preseason ranking of seventh in the Big East, made Powell the leading scorer in the Big East at 23 points per game and showed that a player of his caliber must be defended for 40 minutes, because he can turn it on at any moment.
Evando Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Thompsev.