Following a turnover-filled first half, Seton Hall had a lot of work to do if it wanted to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit. The Pirates came out of the gate strong in the second half and nearly came all the way back, but it was not enough to down No. 21 Marquette in the end.
Led by 26 points from star point guard Markus Howard, the Golden Eagles staved off a feisty Seton Hall comeback effort and held on for a 70-66 victory on Saturday afternoon. With the loss, the Pirates drop to 12-5 overall and 3-2 in Big East play.
Behind baskets from Sandro Mamukelashvili, who finished with 13 points and Quincy McKnight, who added 13 of his own, Seton Hall jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead. It seemed like the Pirates were primed to bring an end to the trend of bad starts to game, but Marquette quickly settled in and erased the early deficit. After trading baskets for a couple of minutes, the Golden Eagles put together a 9-1 run and jumped out to a 20-15 lead.
As Marquette got hot, Seton Hall got sloppy and the turnovers started to pile up. A stretch of lost possessions and missed shots allowed Marquette to grow a 31-19 lead before Michael Nzei scored on two consecutive trips down the floor to bring the lead back down to single digits. However, Howard, who scored 18 of his 26 points in the first half, continued to hit shots to keep Seton Hall at bay. Down 40-27 in the closing seconds of the half, Myles Powell, Seton Hall’s leading scorer on the day with 21 points, hit a three to make it 40-30 heading into the locker room.
After turning the ball over 12 times in the first half, Powell’s three pointer provided Seton Hall with a spark in the early stages of the second half. As he did to start the game, Mamukelashvili opened the scoring with a three pointer. McKnight then followed up his own miss with a tip-in to give the Pirates an 8-0 run. By the under-16 timeout, Marquette’s lead was down to 42-39.
Seton Hall remained hot from the field coming out of the timeout, as Powell hit a three to even the score at 44 and give the Pirates a 17-4 run. Marquette answered back with a string of five consecutive points, but McKnight banked one high off the glass to stop the bleeding and Seton Hall trailed 49-46 at the under-12 timeout.
Before long, the Pirates found themselves back on top for the first time since leading 14-13 early in the first half. Baskets from McKnight off a feed from Mamukelashvili and a left-handed scoop layup from Taurean Thompson put Seton Hall up 52-49. Following the Thompson score, Howard checked back in for Marquette and immediately hit a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to 52-51.
From there, the two teams exchanged numerous blows down the stretch. Seton Hall gave itself some breathing room with a 58-55 lead, but that quickly evaporated and Marquette went back on top with 4:45 remaining in regulation. By the time the under-four timeout rolled around, the two teams were tied at 60 apiece.
Two free throws from Sam Hauser, who eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau on the afternoon, gave Marquette a brief 62-60 lead before Powell came down and drilled a three at the top of the key to give Seton Hall a slim 63-62 advantage. At the other end, Mamukelashvili blocked a Howard shot attempt off the glass, but Marquette big man Theo John corralled the rebound and got fouled going back up for the put back. A poor free throw shooter historically, John hit both to give Marquette a 64-63 lead – one that the Golden Eagles would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
With 1:04 remaining, it looked like Powell got hit on a three-point attempt, but no foul was called. Coming out of a timeout, Kevin Willard decided to go with a 2-3 zone at the other end and got burned, as Joey Hauser cut to the basket for two to give Marquette a 66-63 lead with 45 seconds left.
Following a make from McKnight, Seton Hall opted to foul the younger Hauser with 27.6 seconds remaining. Hauser went one of two at the line, giving Seton Hall a chance to tie down 67-65. Willard called a timeout with 18.7 seconds left and drew up a play for Powell, but Powell deferred to McKnight to take the game-tying three-point attempt. Just like Powell’s three point attempt a minute earlier, it seemed like McKnight was fouled on the play, but the referees swallowed their whistles. Nzei was subsequently whistled for a loose ball foul and John was back at the line for Marquette with a chance to ice the game. This time, John went 1-2 and Seton Hall had another chance to tie.
With the ball in the half court, Marquette opted to foul McKnight instead of allowing him or another Seton Hall player to attempt a shot from beyond the arc. McKnight made the front end of the one-and-one to make it a 68-66 game, but missed the second on purpose, hoping for an offensive rebound. Sam Hauser came down with instead and that was all she wrote, as Hauser drilled two free throws at the other end to put the Pirates away.
Seton Hall’s ability to overcome a 13-point margin on the road against a very good Marquette team speaks volumes, but it was not enough to come away victorious this time around. The Pirates were not only the friendly end of the whistle throughout the afternoon, either, as Marquette attempted 24 free throws. Seton Hall only took nine.
The Pirates have another game on the road against Providence on Jan. 15 before they return home. On Jan. 19, DePaul comes to the Prudential Center with an eye on a season sweep, as the Blue Demons clipped Seton Hall, 75-74, at home earlier in the month.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.