The Seton Hall Pirates propped themselves back into the national spotlight, and knocked the Villanova Wildcats from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 66-61 victory in overtime.
Seton Hall began the game with a wire-to-wire lead in the first 20 minutes. This came at the cost of racking up a bevy of personal fouls, as officiating was the storyline in the first half. Both teams were plagued by it, and the Wildcats nearly fell out of the loop after a poor free throw shooting day.
But big performances from Daniel Ochefu and Darrun Hilliard lifted the Wildcats to stay within striking distance of The Hall. The game would be sent to overtime, where the back-and-forth affair bled on through. The two Big East combatants would trade blows until the the final seconds where Villanova coughed up the ball near half court. A pair of free throws later, and Seton Hall scored their biggest victory in recent memory, and scored back-to-back victories over ranked teams for the first time since 2006.
Here are three things we learned from this epic Saturday afternoon encounter:
1. Sterling Gibbs is making a case to be the best point guard in the Big East
With a 40-point performance under his belt already this season, and just one game with under 10 points, junior Sterling Gibbs' dynamic play continues to ascend through the roof. With another 20-point outing, the Scotch Plains native's second in this week alone, Gibbs is now averaging 16.6 points per game to go along with an average of 3.7 assists. By comparison to the rest, Sterling might be maintaining this title going forward. And it would be hard for anyone to take it from him.
2. Free throw shooting doomed Villanova
While they were the 69th ranked team in the country in free throw shooting heading into Saturday afternoon's matchup, Villanova's freebies, or lack thereof, nearly came back to bite them in Newark. The 'Cats shot 20-for-35 on their free throw attempts, racking up a 57.1 percent rate from the line. Villanova ought to look to make changes to this going forward because as we've seen in the past it's proven to be a death knell for teams when March rolls around.
3. The Pirates are living up to the hype
No matter what the result was today, whether The Hall won or lost, the Seton Hall Pirates are definitely here to stay. Even without Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall is a deep team, loaded with players who know their roles and can play to their positions. And do a damn good job of it, too. It's fun to see The Hall relevant again, and for the Big East Conference it's a beautiful thing to watch.