In the battle of the Big East superstars, Myles Powell came out with the upper hand in more ways than one. He finished with 34 points as compared to Markus Howard’s six points, but the biggest number on the scoreboard was the final score, not the individual statistics, as Seton Hall came away with a 74-63 victory over No. 16 Marquette.
The Golden Eagles kept their distance from the Pirates all game, but ultimately, an 18-0 run to close out the game by Kevin Willard’s team secured the victory.
Kiera Alexander/Staff Photographer
“We knew what was on the line,” Powell said. “We were just fighting for what we’ve been telling you guys we were going to fight for all year. We knew the opportunity that we had tonight, and we seized the moment.”
The loss nearly erases any hard feelings of the Georgetown loss, and Willard is happy that his team was able to rebound as well as it did against a nationally-ranked opponent.
“That’s a big one just because of where we are and this time of year,” Willard said. “Getting a win like this just helps enormously. Especially after as hard as these guys have been playing, we’ve had some tough losses. For them to bounce back, get down by 13 and then show the heart that they did, that’s huge.”
Instead of Howard, Sam Hauser was Marquette’s catalyst, finishing the game with 25 points. However, as the clock ticked by near the end of the game, Hauser went cold, missing a number of shots from beyond the arc. Hauser was the only Golden Eagles to hit double digits in scoring on the night.
Willard elected to go back to his usual starting five for the game, replacing Shavar Reynolds and Romaro Gill with Quincy McKnight and Michael Nzei. The move proved useful to spark the game’s intense feeling, as Nzei mixed it up with Theo John following an and-one just two minutes in. Both players received technical, and the game’s feeling ramped up from that point forward.
It took two minutes for either team to score. The Pirates jumped out to a quick five-point advantage, but Marquette quickly answered. The game was back-and-forth early on, highlighted by threes by Hauser and connections between Jared Rhoden and Powell.
Rhoden was a key to the Pirates’ bench for the second straight game. After playing heavy minutes in the Georgetown game, including a bucket to send the game to double-overtime, Rhoden played another 18 minutes tonight. For much of the latter portion of the game, Rhoden replaced Mamukelashvili on the floor, as Seton Hall’s usual starter was struggling heavily defensively and was visibly frustrated with himself.
With 1:25 to go in the first half, Howard knocked down his first points of the game on a contested three by McKnight. Those hands by McKnight were a familiar sight to Howard all night, as Seton Hall’s defensive wizard was able to fluster the Golden Eagles’ superstar into his lowest point performance all season in games where he has played over three minutes.
“(McKnight) does it night in and night out, he does it on me at practice,” Powell said. “We believe in him and that was the big thing coming in, ‘Quincy, show us where your heart at. It starts with you on defense.’ We ended on an 18-0 run and it started with him.”
“I tried to frustrate him a little bit,” McKnight said. “The first couple plays of the game we trapped him. I think I just slid my feet a little better today than I have in the last couple of games. I was just able to stay in front of him.”
Although Howard is no easy task to guard, McKnight embraces the challenge to lock him down.
“Playing against him is going to hype you up,” McKnight said. “There’s only so many other players in the league, like him, (Powell), (Shamorie Ponds), guys like that, Kamar Baldwin. A lot of guys that you just want to play against every night. They’re great guards, and those are guys that you go against and when you’re matching up with them it’s going to boost you up a little more.”
McKnight was also able to get Howard into foul trouble, as quickly into the second half, he picked up his third. Howard remained at three fouls for the rest of the game, although in limited minutes.
The biggest concern for Seton Hall throughout the game was rebounding. At halftime, Marquette had a 27-13 advantage, and by the end of the game, it was 44-35. A big part of the turnaround was Nzei, who, along with the rest of the Pirates, came down with a few enormous boards to secure the victory. Willard was impressed with his captain through the stretch, and he felt that Nzei quietly proved to be a big difference in the win.
“The double technical (by Nzei), I was fine with that,” Willard said. “It showed the team what it takes to win against a really good team like Marquette. Down the stretch defensively, he did some really good things.”
The Marquette lead stretched to nine near the under-12 media timeout, by Gill was able to re-ignite the crowd with a much-needed dunk. Following that, Powell hit a shot from beyond the arc, which was the team’s second of the game to that point. The Pirates shot 20 percent from three in the game, whereas the Golden Eagles shot 30 percent. Five of Marquette’s nine hits from beyond the arc were courtesy of Hauser.
As the game neared its close, however, it became the Powell show once more. Following a Gill block, Powell stormed down the court to bank in a shot, which he followed by another three makes to give Seton Hall the lead.
Powell, much like he has been all season, was the spark to Seton Hall’s offensive run. Amidst the 18-0 run, though, he found time to embrace with McKnight at half court following a foul, a moment special to both players.
“I almost shed a tear when we started hugging,” Powell said. “We knew what we had to do and that hug right there was just letting each other know that we both did what we both said that we were going to do. When you see your best friend shining, it’s a great feeling.”
Up next, the Pirates will get a chance at revenge with Villanova on March 9.
“Any time you beat a ranked team at home, it’s always a confidence boost,” Powell said. “I think this is what my team needed, but we’re going to come back and fight on Saturday and be ready for another opportunity.”
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KMKTNF.