Sometimes, it’s the most unlikely of heroes that deliver in the clutch.
Facing a one-point deficit with 3.1 seconds remaining, Kevin Willard drew up a play that had Sandro Mamukelashvili slipping to the basket with St. John’s locked in on Myles Powell. Seton Hall executed the play, but Mamukelashvili found himself in an uncomfortable position underneath the hoop. With the time ticking down, Mamukelashvili kicked it out to former walk-on Shavar Reynolds, who drilled the shot of a lifetime from beyond the arc to give Seton Hall a come-from-behind 76-74 win over St. John’s in an instant classic.
“It’s been a long journey,” Reynolds said. “That solidifies all of the hard work and all of the hours in the gym…that proved that it was all worth it. I’m still in shock to be honest, I ain’t gonna lie. I don’t think I realize what just happened, to be honest. When you’re in the moment, it feels like it’s forever. When I saw it go up, I knew it looked good.”
“All his hard work has given me confidence to put him in the game in that situation,” Willard said. “He played really well at Maryland. He’s probably our second-best shooter and I had total confidence he could make the shot.”
Trailing by double-digits for the majority of the evening, it seemed like a comeback from a Seton Hall team that has a flair for the dramatics was not going to happen. Throughout the first half and the first 14 minutes of the second half, the Pirates were plagued by sloppy play and could not get over the hump. However, Seton Hall never quit and the end result exemplifies the team’s never-say-die attitude.
“I’m going to give you this quote from Myles Powell: ‘it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish’,” Michael Nzei, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds said. “Every game has been an opportunity for us. We, as a team, we learn from our mistakes. Every game, it’s an improvement. It’s not like we go up and we go down. We never give up. We continue to fight.”
The action got off to a fast-paced start as St. John’s put its speed and athleticism on full display. Mustapha Heron opened the scoring with a three from the corner and Marvin Clark II followed with a three from the top of the key to give the Red Storm an early 6-0 advantage. Seton Hall got on the board soon after thanks to a bucket from Nzei, but another three from Heron and a dunk from LJ Figueroa in transition pushed St. John’s lead to 11-2 and prompted a Seton Hall timeout at the 17:37 mark.
The Pirates did well to fight their way back into the game coming out of the timeout. By the next media timeout, Seton Hall only trailed 17-11 behind six early points from Nzei. However, turnovers plagued the Pirates’ ability to come all the way back throughout the remainder of the first half. 10 Seton Hall turnovers led to 18 St. John’s points, as the Red Storm kept Seton Hall at bay thanks to a series of runs. After Nzei cut the lead to 24-20, St. John’s ripped off a 7-0 run featuring two straight mid-range jumpers from Justin Simon and a three from Bryan Trimble Jr. to extend its lead to 31-20.
McKnight ended the run and a 4:45 Seton Hall scoring drought with a basket, but Marvin Clark II hit a corner three to push the lead back up to double-digits. From there, the two teams exchanged blows throughout the remainder of the half and St. John’s took a 45-36 lead into halftime. The Red Storm benefitted from 10 Pirates’ turnovers in the half, as they scored 18 points as a result of Seton Hall’s sloppy play. Seton Hall finished the game with 16 turnovers and St. John’s scored 23 points off those turnovers.
The first possession of the second half served as a perfect illustration of how Seton Hall’s evening went up until the closing minutes. After getting a stop on defense, the Pirates turned it over in the backcourt, St. John’s reset its offense at the top of the key and eventually got two points out of the possession.
Much like in the first half, Seton Hall fought to get back into the game, but could not do enough to overtake St. John’s. By the under-12 timeout, the Red Storm held a nine-point lead and approaching the under-eight timeout, St. John’s led comfortably, 64-56. Whenever Seton Hall made a small run to cut the lead to single digits, St. John’s answered back with a string of buckets to hold the Pirates at bay.
With six and a half minutes remaining, the momentum began to swing in Seton Hall’s favor. Out of nowhere, St. John’s high-powered offense offense went ice-cold and the Pirates took advantage by going on a 10-0 run to finally even the score at 69 with 2:41 remaining.
“I think it was our ball movement, or lack thereof,” St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin said when asked what plagued the Red Storm offensively in the closing minutes. “I thought in the first half, the ball was moving pretty well. We had 10 or 11 assists at halftime and we finished with 13. The ball got stuck.”
Although Seton Hall had evened the score, there was still plenty of work to be done. Clark hit a three to give St. John’s a 72-69 lead with two minutes remaining, but the Pirates refused to go away.
After Clark fouled out with 1:47 remaining, McKnight came down and banked in a mid-range jumper off the glass to cut the lead to 72-71. Seton Hall got a stop on the ensuing St. John’s possession and Powell, who was a non-factor in the early stages of the game, drove for two to give the Pirates a 73-72 lead with under a minute left. Powell came alive on Seton Hall’s run to tie the game and finished with 15 points, eight of which came in the second half.
Following Powell’s clutch layup, Heron drew a foul on Myles Cale at the other end and hit both free throws to give St. John’s back the lead. Powell came down and missed a three, forcing Seton Hall to foul Heron and play the free throw game.
Heron missed the front end of a one-and-one and although Seton Hall missed a put back attempt at the other end and fouled Shamorie Ponds with 12 seconds remaining, the Pirates still had life. Like Heron, Ponds missed the front-end of a one-and-one, giving Seton Hall a chance to win the game. Powell took the rebound and drove down the floor with his eyes on the hoop, but Figueroa rotated and swatted his shot out of bounds with 3.9 remaining.
Forced to inbound the ball from an awkward position, it seemed like St. John’s came away with a game-saving deflection and turnover, but a supposed inadvertent whistle by official Michael Stephens gave the ball back to Seton Hall with another chance to win and a chance for Reynolds to pull off a miraculous game-winner.
“The official decided it was a timing error,” said a Big East spokesman. “The clock didn’t start on the initial touch by St. John’s on the throw-in.”
Saturday’s Big East opener will forever be remembered as the Shavar Reynolds game. Rewarded with a scholarship in the offseason for all of his hard work and hours spent in the gym as a walk-on last season, Reynolds’ has delivered for the Pirates in 2018. This time around, he came through when his team needed him the most and gave Seton Hall its first Big East win of the season in unforgettable fashion.
“It’s just really gratifying,” Willard said. “Every high school kid should understand if you work hard and have a great attitude, good things are going to happen. And that’s Shavar Reynolds.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.