Quarterfinal evening double header at Madison Square Garden gave us a heart breaker and another team ‘holding serve’.
Villanova fought back from a 17-point deficit to edge St. John’s 66-65 in the first contest. St. John’s enjoyed that largest lead with just under 16 minutes to play. At that point Kenpom.com rated the probability of a Villanova victory at 15%.
Jay Wright was not surprised at being extended to the wire by St. John’s. "We weren’t disappointed in our play at all,"Wright said. "If you watched them last night (win over DePaul). Watched them the last couple of games, they’re playing great basketball."
In a 64 possession contest, Villanova had a 103-102 edge in offensive efficiency. Julian Champagnie of St. John’s led all with 23 points. Caleb Daniels paced Villanova with 19. Brandon Slater of Villanova converted a one and one with two seconds remaining to give Villanova the lead, and their 24th (24-7) victory.
On the night St. John’s led for 33 minutes, Villanova a shade over five. The remaining minutes saw the game tied. Being ahead 83% of the game does not guarantee victory. The only sure thing is being ahead when the clock strikes 0:00.
Villanova was held without a point the final 2:20 until Slater hit those free throws. Mike Anderson’s Red Storm simply could not close it out. Credit Villanova with poise in the face of a dry spell in the stretch.
Villanova faces UConn in the late semifinal. St. John’s fell to 17-15. The Red Storm can only wonder if post season, certainly not the NCAA Tournament, is in their immediate future.
The nightcap saw UConn race out to a 29-18 lead at the half. The Huskies went on to post a 62-52 decision over Seton Hall.
The pace of 60 possessions solidified the grind it out style, better suited for Danny Hurley’s club. Offensive efficiency was 103 for the Huskies while holding Seton Hall to an 87 efficiency was of greater significance. The latter figure showed the defensive effort of UConn in this meeting.
Putting the 87 Seton Hall was limited to in perspective. On the season in Big East games, the Pirates have a 103 average offensive efficiency. Obviously UConn got the job done on the defensive end.
Seton Hall was limited to 35% shooting and its lowest point total of the season. "We can’t stray from our defensive identity," UConn’s RJ cole said. "That’s who we are as a team." Myles Cale led Seton Hall with 17 points. Tyrese Martin and Cole shared scoring honors for UConn.
While Martin was a one of the leading scorers, his work on Seton Hall’s Jared Rhoden, 7 points on 2 of 13 shooting, stood out and received praise from Hurley. "Tyrese, the last two matchups with Rhoden, he’s really done a great job against him," Hurley praised.
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard lamented his team’s ability to "not finish possessions lately." It’s been a tough season with injuries for the Pirates. "I think our front line, as good as they have been ," Willard said, "I think they were a little tired to be honest with you." Seton Hall was beaten 46-33 on the boards allowing UConn to secure 18 offensive rebounds.
Uconn is now 23-8. For the Pirates, the exit leaves them at 21-10 with a strong chance of seeing their name on the boards Selection Sunday. Willard has done an excellent job navigating the alluded to injuries and the demanding Big East schedule. An early exit from the tournament is never welcomed. The silver lining here is it gives Seton Hall a few days to rest and retool before post season.