Throughout a grueling Big East slate, Seton Hall made its name and built up its NCAA Tournament by going on the road and racking up Quadrant I wins.
Unfortunately, the Pirates didn’t have one last road kill left in them.
With an outright Big East regular-season title on the line, Seton Hall couldn’t overcome a red-hot shooting Creighton squad, falling by a final score off 77–60. With the loss, the Pirates settle for only a share of the regular-season title and finish with the No. 3 seed in the Big East Tournament.
Trailing 50-47, Creighton ripped off a 14-3 run to build a 61-54 lead – a lead that wound up being enough for the Jays to secure their first Big East regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament for the first time since they joined the conference.
Creighton shot the lights out in the second half, firing at a 65% clip from the field and 64% from three. Seton Hall afforded the Jays numerous open looks, aiding their prowess shooting the ball. The Pirates also struggled to find the bottom of the net in their own right, shooting 39% from the field after playing at above 50% in the first half.
Things got off to somewhat of a fortuitous start for the Pirates, as Powell got caught in a double team which led to an errant pass and a Creighton layup, energizing a raucous home crowd. Led by Sandro Mamukelashvili, Quincy McKnight and Kevin Willard’s desire to slow the tempo of the game, Seton Hall settled in and built a 17-12 lead by the under-12 timeout.
McKnight, who averages 17 points per game in his career against Creighton, accumulated seven over the first eight minutes of action, while Mamukelashvili added five to give the duo 12 of Seton Hall’s first 17 points. During this stretch, Seton Hall was content beginning its offensive possessions nearly 10 seconds into the shot clock to avoid turning the game into a track meet.
The tide turned in Creighton’s favor at the 10-minute mark, as Powell checked out after picking up his second foul. Powell’s exit coincided with a Creighton hot streak from three, as the Jays drilled four consecutive triples to rip off a 14-4 run which propelled them in front by three at the under-eight timeout.
Creighton’s run was enough for Willard to roll the dice and put Powell back in the game with two fouls. The move paid off, as Seton Hall strung together a 7-0 run upon his return. Powell put the Pirates back in front at 28-27 with 2:50 remaining in the first half, but Creighton answered right back and the two teams went into halftime deadlocked at 32.
The second half got off to an eventful start, as both teams racked up double-digit points in the first four minutes of action. Creighton’s Kelvin Jones also got called for a Flagrant I hook and hold on Romaro Gill, which netted Seton Hall a point at the free throw line. However, the Jays held a 47-42 lead by the time the first media timeout rolled around.
Seton Hall came out of the timeout with a purpose, putting together an 8-0 run to jump out in front by three. Creighton answered with an and-one at the other end, though, knotting the score at 50. The Jays kept rolling with consecutive fast-break layups, prompting a Seton Hall timeout at the 7:46 mark.
Creighton stayed hot out of the timeout, as Marcus Zegarowski canned a three and Ty-Shon Alexander converted a layup in transition to make it 61-54. With the Jays having hit six of their last six shots, Willard called another timeout with 5:51 remaining. The timeout did nothing to slow down Creighton, as it stayed hot, pushing its shooting streak to eight of its last nine and its lead to 67-59 by the under-four timeout — an advantage that proved to be more than enough for the Jays.
Creighton kept its foot on the gas and built its lead to 74-60 with a minute and a half remaining. Frustration got the best of Mamukelashvili, who got in the face of Damien Jefferson and was hit with a technical foul, effectively summing up the way things went for Seton Hall throughout the second half.
Seton Hall will now have to play against the No. 6 seed in the Big East Tournament at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday night. The Pirates’ opponent will be either Xavier or Marquette depending on the outcome of Xavier’s matchup with Butler on Saturday afternoon.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.