Multiple times this year Seton Hall has had an elite team on the ropes only to let the game slip away in the end. At Butler on Wednesday night, the Pirates once again found themselves in position to topple a highly-ranked opponent. This time they capitalized, taking down the nation’s #5 team, 78-70.
Seton Hall came out throwing punches early, leaping out to a 17-8 lead behind Quincy McKnight and Myles Powell. Butler’s offense looked defunct until Jordan Tucker came off the bench and rescued the Bulldogs, draining three triples in less than three minutes. The last of the three gave Butler its first lead, 21-20. The rest of the half was all Butler; Powell didn’t score in the last 11:34 of the half and the Bulldogs led 40-30.
In the second half, Seton Hall didn’t come roaring back, but rather chipped away steadily. Powell was stellar as always and Romaro Gill made his presence felt, scoring 15 points in the second half despite fouling out. The big man was 5-6 from the stripe on the night, part of a 21-25 effort from the Pirates which was a big reason they were able to stay attached to Butler throughout.
It wasn’t until 8:17 remained that Seton Hall grabbed the lead back on a Powell three. Khalif Battle made two free throws to put Butler back on top, but Powell answered with a layup. On the next Hall possession, Powell made perhaps the biggest play of the game by drawing an Aaron Thompson foul while shooting from beyond the arc. Thompson fouled out and Powell made three free throws to extend the lead to four.
Butler battled valiantly in the closing minutes, even managing to tie the game up again, but without Thompson running the point and providing his reliable stingy defense, the Bulldogs just seemed a step behind on both ends of the floor. Jared Rhoden knocked down a dagger three with 42 second remaining that turned the game into a free throw shooting expo by the Pirates. The game was much closer than the final eight-point disparity indicates.
Powell led all scorers with 29. Gill was helpful in the scoring column and also clogged up the paint defensively, while McKnight was a major factor, logging 13 assists. Seton Hall improves to 5-0 in conference play and becomes the first team to beat Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse this year.
Seton Hall: Tremendous Composure
Seton Hall got destroyed for the last ten minutes or so of the first half and went into the locker room as just another team losing to Butler by double digits at the half. However, the Pirates came out in the second half with a plan and the discipline and composure to execute it.
At no point did they panic, and nobody on the roster was forcing things. Powell took what the defense gave him but was a willing passer. Gill stepped up and had a monstrous half and others, like Rhoden with his huge three-pointer, came through in big moments. Seton Hall has had a good season so far, but things are really coming together now and the Pirates are now looking like an elite team.
For the first time this season, Butler was unable to control the tempo of the game. Seton Hall’s offensive aggression and defensive pressure caused the Bulldogs to hurry more than they like to. This played into Seton Hall’s hands as Butler rushed things on offense. No doubt this accelerated pace played a part in Butler’s dismal three-point shooting. Sharpshooter Sean McDermott shot just 2-7 from deep and Baldwin was 1-5.
McKnight deserves a tip of the cap for his performance in this one as he was the engine for the Pirates Wednesday night. He was perhaps the main reason that Seton Hall dictated the tempo as he sliced and diced Butler’s defense, dishing out 13 assists.
Seton Hall hosts St. John’s on Saturday, January 18, at 12:00 p.m. ET.
Butler plays at DePaul on Saturday, January 18, at 1:00 p.m. ET.