The Seton Hall men’s basketball team held on with the No. 1 team in the nation for two thirds of the game on Sunday afternoon in the Wells Fargo Center, but lost its point guard and edge momentarily and did not recover, falling to the Villanova Wildcats by a score of 92-76.
Fans decked in Pirate blue, imitating the glory day uniforms worn by the Pirates, packed the five rows behind the Seton Hall bench in an arena that saw fans dress not only with Villanova regalia, but in Philadelphia Eagles apparel as well. The game was part college basketball game, part Super Bowl rally.
Perhaps that factor played into the energy fans displayed, erupting to almost every made shot for the Wildcats, which stunted any Seton Hall rally in the first half. The Pirates were ahead early, holding as much as an 11-4 lead, but Villanova quickly took the lead and had a four-point edge at the break, their largest advantage at that point.
Coming into the second half down, Seton Hall had enough composure and efficiency to re-take the lead a few times, going back and forth just as they had done in the first half. However, with Villanova having extended the lead to 55-51 with 12:50 remaining, and the crowd at a feverish pitch, head coach Kevin Willard elected not to call a timeout. The following possession, Khadeen Carrington was called for his fourth personal foul, forcing the point guard out of the game for a roughly six-minute stretch.
When asked after the game if he regretted the decision of not calling a timeout, Willard stated unequivocally, “No.”
To that point Carrington had 10 points and two assists, and was a key part to the Pirates holding on with the No. 1 Wildcats. Without him in the game, Seton Hall was able to answer Villanova a few times, with a jump shot from Desi Rodriguez and two-three pointers from Myles Powell.
The Pirates were, however, unable to hold on without Carrington for long. Rodriguez, Delgado and Powell, who finished with 20, 18 and 17 points respectively, could not create the same offense with Carrington watching from the sidelines. In a 2:41 stretch, Villanova went on a 11-3 run that ended hopes of the upset win.
“I think Khadeen was doing a great job the whole game,” Delgado said afterward. “So, losing him gave those guys a lot of comfort. The other team saw that; Jalen [Brunson] having a little guy on him, he just went to work.”
Willard went on to further describe the impact of not having Carrington in the game for that critical part of the second-half.
“When you don’t have your point guard out there for some good, solid six minutes, it just kills your whole rhythm offensively and defensively,” Willard said.
Villanova can beat a team in many different ways, with different players who can take over the game. On Sunday, it was perhaps the team’s most versatile player, Omari Spellman, who the Pirates could not find an answer for.
Spellman scored 26 points, on a suffocating 6-for-7 from three. The 6-foot, 8-inch redshirt freshman forward also gobbled up 11 rebounds, making him the only player on the afternoon to record a double-double. The usual accumulator of double-doubles, Delgado, spoke highly of Spellman after the game.
“He played good, he made a lot of shots I wasn’t expecting,” Delgado said. “I think he did a great job out there, he played hard, and I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
The result drops the Pirates to 17-6 overall and 6-4 in the Big East. What awaits them on Feb. 7 is a chance for redemption at home against a Marquette team that beat them handily on Jan. 9, 84-64. Tip-off for that game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
James Justice can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.