Seton Hall and Villanova just seem to bring the best out of each other just about every time they play and Wednesday night’s game was another classic as the Wildcats edged the Pirates 69-68 in overtime.
Both teams struggled to score, especially in the first half and three pointers in the first half were certainly tough to come by. In the second half, some players began to emerge.
Mikal Bridges led Villanova with 23 points on 9-18 shooting, 10 rebounds and got the offense going for the Wildcats in the first half. He hit some big shots late, but in overtime it was Jalen Brunson who made the buckets when it mattered most on his way to finishing with 14 points.
At the half, Villanova led Seton Hall 24-18. It was about as bad of an offensive half for both teams as we have seen from each of them all year. Nova shot 32 percent from the field and the Pirates shot just 21 percent from the floor. The teams combine to shoot 4-27 from downtown in the opening stanza, but defensively both teams were locked in.
“That was an old fashioned Big East rock right man,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We needed to play a game like that. We just couldn’t make shots, our defense kept us in it. Very impressed with Seton Hall to play without one of the best players in the conference.”
Without Desi Rodriguez, the Pirates were led by Khadeen Carrington who paced the team with 23 points. He made some huge plays throughout the game, but did miss a free throw in the final seconds that would have given the Pirates the lead. Instead, at the line he only tied the game which led to the overtime period.
“You’re a senior right?,” Wright told Carrington in the handshake line. “Good, I wanted to make sure. He is just a classic New York guard and has a unique knack for putting the ball into the basket like Rod Strickland and guys like that.”
One matchup that went in favor of Villanova was the battle down low. Omari Spellman finished with six points and 14 rebounds, but also held Seton Hall star Angel Delgado to just seven points and eight rebounds.
“I thought Omari Spellman did an amazing job,” Wright said. “I was so proud with his defensive effort.”
The finish to regulation and overtime were about as frantic as we have seen in a Big East game all season long. Carrington’s free throw in the final seconds, then Donte Divincenzo missed a last second three at the buzzer that sent the game to overtime.
At the end overtime, it looked like Villanova had it wrapped up with a seven point lead, but an Eron Gordon three pointer, a five second call and a Myles Cale dunk made things interesting.
The bench for Seton Hall certainly contributed with Mike Nzei, Sandro Mamukelashvili and Cale putting in good minutes but it was the overall performance by his team that had Coach Kevin Willard proud of his group.
“The toughness has been great,” Willard said. “They were resilient when they got down. Really proud of the way these guys played.”
It was a classic Seton Hall-Villanova game that had plenty of drama, big shots, great defensive plays, overtime and players stepping up. This fixture has become the one in the Big East under the new format that continues to deliver time and time again. We will see if these two face off again come Big East Tournament time.
Until then, there is still one more regular season game to go for each team.
Villanova hosts Georgetown on Saturday to finish the regular season. With a win and a Xavier loss they would share the Big East regular season title with Xavier. The Musketeers face DePaul in Chicago.
Seton Hall hosts Butler on Saturday for senior night with tournament seeding on the line. The Pirates will likely be without Ismael Sanogo who sprained his ankle late in the game, according to Willard. It is the same ankle he sprained last season.
Willard also said that Rodriguez looks better, but they are not sure if he will play either. Cale cramped up at the end of the game, but should be a go for Saturday. Jordan Walker missed the Villanova game with a thumb injury. Both Sanogo and Walker are expected to be ready for the Big East Tournament. As is Rodriguez, but Willard might play him on senior day. That decision still seems to be up in the air.
It is important for Seton Hall to get healthy, but the Butler game is also very important for both teams.
One thing is for sure, after tonight it is clear both Villanova and Seton Hall will be making noise at MSG and possibly beyond. If we are lucky, they might even see each other once again at the Garden.