Physical, hard-nosed basketball. That is the name of the game whenever Seton Hall and Marquette take the floor.
Saturday’s matinee affair did not disappoint in that regard. For 40 minutes, the Pirates and the Golden Eagles duked it out in front of a capacity Prudential Center crowd that provided a March-like atmosphere. The end result? Seton Hall’s sixth straight win, fourth straight conference victory and third straight triumph over Marquette by a final score of 69-55.
“That’s our DNA,” Powell said of the physicality. “We battle each other in practice every day. You come in and watch a Seton Hall practice and you would forget that we’re teammates. Every day we step on the court, we want to battle. I feel like that DNA is carrying on from the top guy to the bottom guy.”
With the win, Seton Hall improves to 4-0 in Big East play for the first time since 1992-93, a year in which the Pirates won both the regular season and conference tournament titles.
The two teams picked up where they left off in last year’s Big East Tournament in terms of physical play. Marquette’s Brendan Bailey picked up a Flagrant foul on Romaro Gill right before the U16 timeout, setting the tone for the game and stamping the latest chapter in the budding Seton Hall, Marquette rivalry as a physical, hard-fought affair.
Despite the constant banging on both ends of the floor, Marquette used its finesse to jump out to an early lead. By the under-12 timeout, Marquette held a 17-10 lead thanks to the hot shooting of Markus Howard, who racked up 11 points in the first eight minutes of action. Howard finished with 27 on 8-22 shooting, but was held to only nine points on 3-12 shooting with the trio of Quincy McKnight, Shavar Reynolds and Anthony Nelson sticking on him like white on rice in the second half. Marquette’s offensive production suffered mightily in the second half, as it shot only 19% from the field and 18% from three over the final 20 minutes.
“I think personally when we lock in defensively, we’re one of the best teams in the country,” Reynolds said. “Even though I was guarding Markus and not letting him touch it, my teammates were doing all of the rotations.”
Marquette followed its star player’s lead and caught fire shooting the ball, finding the bottom of the net from the field at a 50% clip and 67% from three. At the under-eight timeout, the Golden Eagles held a 26-17 lead and were seemingly in command of the pace.
Then the Pirates got rolling.
Seton Hall parlayed a basket before the timeout into an 8-0 run, cutting Marquette’s lead to four. A step back three from Powell tied the score at 32 before Seton Hall regained the lead for the first time since it was 2-0 on an Ike Obiagu dunk with 2:40 left to play in the first half. Sparked by the hot-shooting Powell, Reynolds’ hustle and Nelson’s savvy running the offense, the Pirates carried a 40-37 lead into the locker room.
Seton Hall continued its success on offense at the beginning of the second half, building its lead to 45-40 at the under-16 timeout. A brief 5-0 Marquette spurt evened the score at 45, but Seton Hall responded with an 11-0 run to give itself some breathing room.
“I think once we started simplifying things on the defensive end, we locked in,” coach Kevin Willard said. “We were able to chase guys off the line and make things tough for Markus [Howard.].”
Marquette cut Seton Hall’s lead to 58-53 with 6:13 left to go, but the Pirates turned it up a notch defensively and remained in control for the remainder of the game. Following the three-pointer by Koby Mcewen, Seton Hall forced Marquette into a field goal drought that spanned nearly six minutes and took full advantage of the Golden Eagles’ struggles shooting the ball. Two free throws from Romaro Gill pushed Seton Hall’s lead to 63-53 following the under-four timeout, giving the Pirates enough cushion to come away with the win.
“We’re for real,” Powell said. “The team that you guys projected to win the Big East, that’s the team that’s coming around.”
-Shavar Reynolds’ true impact will never be measured by a single statistic. He impacts the game in so many ways and without his effort and hustle, Seton Hall’s end of the first-half run probably doesn’t occur. There shouldn’t be anyone left out there wondering why he’s on scholarship after this game.
“We’re not a non-profit. We’re not a charity,” Willard said after the game. “He’s on scholarship for a reason. He’s a really good player. He brings a lot of intangibles that don’t show up on stat sheets.”
-Myles Powell was the one who put Seton Hall on his back at the end of the first half, but Anthony Nelson deserves credit for sparking the surge. Time and time again, Nelson put Powell in the perfect spots and ran the offense to perfection. He might not get the most minutes, but Nelson makes the most of his opportunities to orchestrate the offense. He’ll have his time running the show throughout the next two seasons.
-Annual reminder that Tyrese Samuel’s ceiling does not exist. Another standout performance for the freshman with eight points and five rebounds on a perfect 3-3 shooting performance.
-It’s not Marquette versus Seton Hall without physical play, flagrant fouls and questionable officiating. It’s always an event when these two teams meet.
-This year’s Seton Hall squad was supposed to be one that could make a little bit of history. A win on the road at Butler on Wednesday would put the Pirates at 5-0 in Big East play for the first time in program history. It’s not going to be an easy task to accomplish, but if Seton Hall’s winning streak has proven anything, it’s that the Pirates are more than capable of rising to the occasion.
“It’s big. This is what you come to this conference for, this is what you want to play high-level basketball for,” Powell said. “They’ll probably be top-five once we go there and we’ll get another chance to beat a top-five team.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.