Myles Powell was the catalyst for another Seton Hall comeback on Wednesday, as the Pirates stormed back to defeat Xavier on the road by a final score of 80-70.
Powell led all scorers with 25 points, adding six rebounds and a career-high eight assists. Forward Sandro Mamukelashvili also contributed 11 points and two blocks as the Pirates improved to 11-3 overall and 2-0 in Big East play.
Both teams came out on fire in the first half. The Pirates and Musketeers combined to make 10 of their first 11 shots. Powell’s 12 first-half points paced Seton Hall, who found itself down 42-38 at halftime despite shooting over 57 percent from the field in the first half, including a 5-of-9 showing from beyond the arc.
The Pirates trailed throughout most of the first half as Xavier’s Zach Haskins feasted in the paint. Haskins shot 9-of-11 from the floor, scoring 18 of his career-high 20 points in the opening frame. Xavier’s pick-and-roll offense exposed holes and caused breakdowns in Seton Hall’s interior defense time, forcing head coach Kevin Willard to make adjustments at halftime.
Turnovers also plagued the Pirates in the first half. Mental mistakes and unforced ballhandling errors created numerous opportunities for the Musketeers. Given Seton Hall’s struggles, some would have counted the Pirates lucky to only be down by four at halftime.
While the halftime adjustments locked up Hankins, who only added one basket after the break, Seton Hall had new problems to solve. Quincy McKnight picked up his fourth foul with almost 19 minutes left, meaning freshman point guard Anthony Nelson entered the fray for an extended second-half run in a hostile environment. Nelson finished with seven points, only turning the ball over once while gaining valuable experience.
Xavier ripped open a double-digit lead with a quick 8-0 run, forcing a Seton Hall timeout with 12:07 remaining and the Cintas Center crowd on its feet. But with the game threatening to get out of hand, Seton Hall rose to the occasion.
As the game clock ticked down and the stakes got higher, the on-court action evolved from a free-flowing display of halfcourt sets and whiteboard plays into an old-school, physical rock fight. Romaro Gill came up huge on defense as the game got physical. The towering center had four blocks on the night, two of which led to fastbreak scores that cut into Xavier’s lead.
Gill then finished a thunderous alley-oop delivery from Powell to give the Pirates a 65-63 lead with 4:58 remaining. Xavier tied it up twice
The win is Seton Hall’s seventh in a row and all the more impressive given the environment in which the Pirates were playing. Last season, Xavier was 17-1 at home and the Cintas Center was a nearly-impossible place for Big East opponents to come in and emerge victoriously. Xavier also entered the evening 5-0 all-time in Big East openers
The Pirates face their next Big East test on the road when they take on DePaul on Sunday, Jan. 6.
Kyle Beck can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @notkylebeck.