Four clutch free throws and two straight forced turnovers from full court pressure lifted Seton Hall past Providence in double overtime, 81-80, in the Big East opener.
The Pirates, who came in with an 0-2 record in games going past regulation, had to put together an outstanding stretch of basketball just to have the opportunity to turn back the Friars. With 9.3 seconds to play in double overtime, the Pirates trailed 80-79. Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard brought a full-court press to Providence and on the in-bounds pass, the ball deflected off a Friar into the Pirate bench. Gibbs, who finished with 15 points, received the ensuing in-bounds pass, drove inside and took a foul as he attempted a shot. Two nothing-but-net free throws gave the blue and white a one-point lead. With a traveling call on the ensuing Friar possession, the buzzer rang through the Dunkin' Donuts Center to seal up the Pirates' first road win of the season.
In overtime, Gibbs found a running Brandon Mobley, and the junior forward laid in a bucket to make it a 63-59 game with 3:10 left to play. After Providence senior guard Bryce Cotton knocked down a triple, the Hall answered with two from the charity stripe from Mobley. Leading 64-62 with just over a minute left, senior Fuquan Edwin scored a jumper to give the Pirates a four-point lead. But just when it looked like SHU was going to escape with the win, a Cotton bucket cut the Pirates' lead to just two. After a missed shot by the Pirates' junior forward Patrik Auda, Cotton stepped up with two free throws to tie the game at 66 apiece with 5.9 seconds left.
Edwin drove down the floor on the next possession, made a collision in the lane, and the clock expired. Between Willard arguing with the officials for a no-call and Edwin down on the floor, the game was tied at 66 and it looked as if everything was going to go Providence's way.
The first 10 minutes of the second half was highlighted by a 13-4 run by the Pirates that saw them take a 51-40 lead. But, Providence began to pressure the Pirates and held them to seven points in the final 10 minutes.
Seton Hall was not down by more than six in a tightly contested first half. With 4:30 left in the first half and down by three, the Pirates began to make a run to close out the first 20 minutes. A lay-in by Edwin got Seton Hall within one, and a few possessions later, junior forward Brandon Mobley hit a triple to make it 28-26 in favor of SHU. The Pirates carried a 30-28 lead into the break.
The game was a part of the five-game New Year's Eve Big East marathon. The Pirates and Friars each had the spotlight on them with Fox Sports One televising the contest.
What does this win mean?
For a team that came in at 2-4 in games decided by six points or less and 0-2 in overtime games, this was a big step just for the Pirates to win a tightly contested one. For Gibbs to step up in a conference affair shows that he is not just somebody who is going to rack up stats in out-of-conference play. Without Gene Teague, the Pirates did not lie down. And when you're in a situation to win a conference game on the road against a beatable team, you have to find a way to escape. For Seton Hall and Providence, they must cherish each chance they can get to pull out Big East games. Every single second of conference play matters for each one of those teams because these types of games separate the teams who are in the final couple of slots in the standings to the ones in the middle of the road when we head into March for the conference tournament. The Hall backed up the statements made in the preseason that this team was different from a three-win conference team last year. A new-look blue and white squad had the spotlight on them on the road, and they sit at 1-0 in the new-look, highly competitive Big East.
The Pirates face a tough test in their Big East home opener against All-Big East Preseason Player of the Year Doug McDermott and the Creighton Bluejays. The tip-off is at 3 p.m. inside the Prudential Center.