No. 21 Seton Hall men's basketball suffered their first defeat of the season on Monday night in a 79-76 loss to Ohio State in their Fort Myers Tip-Off opener.
Freshman guard Meechie Johnson Jr. hit a late three-point basket with less than five seconds left in the second half to break a 76-76 deadlock. Seton Hall attempted to level the score with 2.6 seconds left on the clock, but Tyrese Samuel's attempt from long range went wide of the basket
Jared Rhoden led the team with a career-high 29 points with five rebounds while Bryce Aiken contributed 16 points off the bench. Myles Cale's two points came on the fastbreak, but the fifth-year senior injured himself in the process and did not return for the rest of the game after 11 minutes in the first half.
Rhoden and Aiken combined for 22 points in the opening minutes of the game, but no other player had scored more than three points for the Hall after 10 minutes which was an uncharacteristic performance from a team that had diversified the scoresheet well through their first three games.
What truly held Seton Hall back, however, was their poor defensive effort. Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann’s offensive gameplan perfectly manipulated Pirate coach Kevin Willard’s defense, as Ohio State finished the half shooting 50% from the floor, including a spectacular 13-26 from three-point range.
EJ Liddell for Ohio State came out strong, as he posted a 16-point, three-rebound, two-block showing in the first half. Compound this performance with an 11-point first-half effort from Justin Ahrens, and the Buckeyes were propelled to a 40-35 halftime lead.
The second half is where things got interesting, however. Despite a quick run from Ohio State that saw their lead balloon to 11, the Pirates remained persistent.
Rhoden and Aiken led the way on offense, as the former scored 13 in the second half and the Harvard transfer scored 10. Seton Hall brought the game within one point with 2:22 remaining and tied the game at 76 off a Jamir Harris steal-and-score with 14 seconds remaining.
The lead only lasted a mere 12 seconds, though, as Johnson Jr. launched a gutsy three-pointer from five feet behind the arc that rattled in over the outstretched hand of Aiken to give Ohio State a three-point lead with 2.3 seconds remaining.
Even with a miraculous 11-point comeback, Johnson’s clutch shot sucked the air out of a confident, momentum-filled Pirate squad.
Now, Willard’s squad must wait a day before facing the loser of Monday’s Universiy of California/No. 23 Florida match-up on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m.
Brendan Balsamo can be reached at email@example.com.