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Seton Hall triumphs over Maryland, 78-74

The Pirates end nonconference play on a high note.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Maryland Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

When the Seton Hall Pirates began the 2018-19 season, expectations were pretty measured. With their best recruiting class in recent memory come and gone, the Pirates weren’t pegged for rich amount success. After all, Seton Hall was picked to finish 8th in the Big East preseason poll.

But after a 1-2 start, the Pirates rolled off a 7-1 record heading into their meeting with the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday. That included wins over the Miami-Florida Hurricanes and a thrilling victory over the Kentucky Wildcats. With big wins under their belt, there probably wouldn’t have been too much shame if they took a loss. However, they weren’t thinking that way. The Pirates walked into the Xfinity Center in College Park and skedaddled away with a 78-74 victory to move them to 9-3 on the year.

The Pirates trailed 37-32 at the start of the second half following a 3-pointer by Anthony Cowan Jr. But a 6-0 run spurred by Myles Powell and Myles Cale surged them ahead. Jalen Smith regained the lead for the Terps with a 3-pointer, but Cale hit one of his own. The two teams traded buckets for the next few minutes, with Quincy McKnight, Shavar Reynolds, Romaro Gill, Aaron Wiggins and Bruno Fernando all getting in the action along with Cowan Jr. and Darryl Morsell.

A 3-pointer by Eric Ayala and a dunk by Smith put Maryland up by four points with 5:36 to play. This would prove to be the largest deficit for Seton Hall the rest of the way. A layup +1 for Powell and two free throws from Cale put them up 62-61. Smith went 1-for-2 on free throws on the other end to tie the game, but Powell answered with two of his own. Smith tied the game again with a bucket, but two consecutive layups by Cale propped The Hall up by four.

Maryland would come awfully close to Seton Hall after a 3-pointer by Cowan Jr. at the 34-second mark. But the Pirates’ clutch free throw shooting helped guide their voyage into the win column once again.

This won’t surprise you, but Myles Powell was integral to Seton Hall’s success. Powell blazed the nets for 27 points on 14 shots. He hit all eight of his free throws — a common thread for Seton Hall on Saturday night, as they shot 18-for-21 from the FT line — and torched from the field, going 8-for-14. He had three made 3-pointers on a night where the Pirates went 8-for-21 from deep.

It’s Powell’s latest dazzling display, as he is very much a top contender for Big East Player of the Year and, at the very least, an All-Big East First Team selection. He’s had outings of 28, 28, 15 and 27 in his last four games as he’s on an absolute tear heading into conference play.

Powell wasn’t the only Myles to show out on Saturday, either. No, Myles Cale did so as well. Cale had 23 points, a career-high showing for the Delaware native. He’s quietly been terrific this season in the points department, and Saturday’s showing only furthered that. Cale was 6-for-10 from the field and, like Powell, went 8-for-8 from the free throw line.

The Myles’ dominated the last stretch of the second half, as you might expect. They accounted for 19 of their final 21 points in the game. This included a stretch where they made five straight free throws and then eight straight free throws between the two of them.

Free throw shooting won this team the game, and it’s hard not to deny that. The Pirates made 17 of their final 19 attempts from the stripe. The only misses went to Sandro Mamukelashvili and Quincy McKnight, but Mamukelashvili and McKnight each had a made free throw to their credit.

Romaro Gill showed out in one of his best performances so far. Gill had six points and eight rebounds but did fall into foul trouble with four fouls. He was one of three Pirates, joining McKnight and Michael Nzei to finish with four fouls on the night. Nzei, like Gill, had six points to his credit. The leader for assists for the Pirates was McKnight, who racked up four to go with his four rebounds, too.

The Terps had four double figures scorers, and normally that would be good enough for a win. Anthony Cowan Jr. had 15 points, Eric Ayala scored 13, Jalen Smith posted 14 and Bruno Fernando piled up 19. Darryl Morsell had seven points of his own. Their cold shooting down the stretch from the line and the field and the Pirates’ ability to make free throws essentially did them all in. The Terps fall to 9-3 on the year now with this loss, their second at home this season with the other loss coming against the Virginia Cavaliers.

So now, Seton Hall embarks on a new journey. With nonconference play behind them, they’ll trek into the waters of Big East play. Their first quest? Taking down the unbeaten St. John’s Red Storm. Up I-95, a jaunt on the New Jersey Turnpike and then a trek over the Hudson, St. John’s tidied up another win to move to 12-0 on the year.

Seton Hall will welcome the undefeated Red Storm to Newark for a hotly contested encounter to start the Big East season next Saturday. And what a dandy that game will be. It’s easily the biggest game that these two programs have had against each other in a very long time. And with two of the best scorers in the Big East — Powell for Seton Hall, Shamorie Ponds for St. John’s — partaking in the action, Saturday afternoon’s tilt at The Rock is Must See TV.