In 1989, Michigan took the NCAA National Championship in overtime over Seton Hall thanks to one of the most notorious and controversial foul calls in NCAA basketball history. In 2021, the Pirates finally got their chance for revenge.
This time, the circumstances were much different. Seton Hall came into Tuesday’s game with something to prove. A new-look squad that looked purely dominant in their first two games against mid-major opponents faced their first real test in Ann Arbor.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines have a reputation as one of the top teams in the country, as they held the #4 spot in the AP Top 25 headed into their first matchup against Seton Hall since 1989.
The Pirates opened up the game unable to penetrate the elite Michigan perimeter defense. Thankfully, some hot three-point shooting and fantastic defense on the other end kept Seton Hall in the mix.
The Pirates attempted a whopping 14 three-pointers in the first half and knocked down 5, good for a 35.7% three-point percentage, but were only able to score 4 points in the paint compared to Michigan’s 20.
It would have been a lot more than 20 points if not for Ike Obiagu’s spectacular effort down low, amassing 4 blocks in the game’s first 10 minutes. He did not have much other impact on the scoresheet, but his defensive performance prevented a huge Michigan lead.
The offense, meanwhile, ran through Jared Rhoden and Tray Jackson, as Rhoden knocked down 9 points, 4 rebounds, and an assist and Jackson got up to 8 points with 2 rebounds. Their 17 accounted for over half of the team’s 28, as the Pirates found themselves down 31-28 at halftime.
A quick 8-1 run to start the second half that put the Wolverines up 39-29 seemed to slow the Pirates down out the gates, but the two teams traded big blows that kept Seton Hall within 10.
They kept inching closer and closer until an Obiagu foul shot knotted the score at 60 with 2:55 remaining. Consistent untimely fouls from both sides saw the squads go blow-for-blow at the line until Michigan’s Terrance Williams went to the line with 0.08 seconds remaining with Seton Hall up 66-64.
With another opportunity to break Seton Hall fans’ hearts at the free throw line, Michigan could not seal the deal 32 years later. Williams missed the first free throw, pretty much securing a Seton Hall victory over three decades in the making.
In only his second game back from injury, Rhoden led the Pirates, dropping 16 points and bringing in 5 rebounds. Two transfers with something to prove also propelled the Pirates to a victory, as Bryce Aiken and Jackson scored 13, followed by 8 from Myles Cale and Jamir Harris.
It is no exaggeration to say that Tuesday’s win was perhaps the biggest in program history due not only to the historical context, but the current-day implications of Seton Hall’s victory. The win was the Pirates’ first non-conference road win against a top 5 opponent ever. After receiving votes in the AP Poll for the first time this season on Monday, fans should expect to see their Pirates in the Top 25 next week.
With 32 years of a horrible memory now at least partly satiated, the Pirates can look ahead to next Tuesday, where Kevin Willard’s gauntlet of a non-conference schedule continues with a matchup against #17 Ohio State in the Fort Myers Tip-Off Challenge.