Following their departure from the Big East tournament after a loss against DePaul, Seton Hall accepted a bid to play in the NIT. They drew the Colorado Buffaloes as their first opponent, and, despite short notice, traveled over 2,000 miles to play at 11:00 pm EST on Tuesday.
Al-Amir Dawes connected from behind-the-arc early, settling for an open three-pointer to give the Pirates their first lead. Neither side could build a lead until Colorado, trailing 18-17, held Seton Hall scoreless for six minutes and used a 10-0 burst to take the largest lead of the game. The Hall cut the lead down, 33-27, headed into the break.
The Pirates missed 12 of their final 14 shots in the first half. Dawes led the way with 8 points, while Ndefo followed closely with 7 points of his own. Dre Davis and Tyrese Samuel added four points each.
Jamir Harris opened the half with a three-pointer with 18:37 remaining in the second half, though Colorado answered with one of their own to keep the advantage at six. An emphatic slam from Tyrese Samuel sparked a 13-2 run for The Hall to retake the lead, 45-42, for the first time since the first half.
Colorado tied the game at 51 with just over 8 minutes to go in the game, and a scoreless two minutes was interrupted by a Buffaloes triple at the 6:21 mark. The Pirates would once again see a six-point deficit, just as they did going into halftime.
Seton Hall trailed 63-59, and consecutive dunks from Samuel and Ndefo tied the game with 32 seconds. Ndefo used a traditional three-point play to give the team a 1-point advantage late. Colorado converted on the other end on a layup, and the final possession went to The Hall.
Head coach Shaheen Holloway called a play for Femi Odukale coming out of the timeout, and as he went for what would be the game-winning layup, too much strength was put on it and the Pirates left Colorado with a devastating 65-64 loss in the NIT Round of 32.
“I was trying everything to get these guys juiced up to play… I thought we played the last 10 minutes like Seton Hall,” Coach Holloway said post-game.
KC Ndefo led Seton Hall in scoring with 18 points on the strength of 6-for-8 from the field to go with 6 rebounds and four assists. Samuel had another double-double, as he scored 16 points and pulled in 11 rebounds. Dawes followed with 13 points on the night.
Seton Hall wraps up their season with a 17-16 overall record, featuring a 10-10 record in conference play. Shaheen Holloway completes his first year as Pirates’ head coach with the most overall wins, most road wins, and most Big East wins by a first-year head coach.
Coach Holloway promised fans, “The future is bright because I’m going to get some guys in here who are going to battle and play the way I want to play.” High hopes for the team headed into the off-season, and until the tournaments play out, Holloway will be active in recruiting both transfers and incoming freshman as the Pirates reload.
Thomas Donnelly can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @_tommyd023.