The shock is still there. I’ve held off on writing on this simply because I’m still unsettled. Sterling Gibbs had one of the most clutch shots in Big East Tournament history. Gibbs received the inbound pass and started to move inside. He shook off Darrun Hilliard, and with the space he was able to create, he stepped back and shot the ball. Everything felt like it was in slow-motion for awhile. The ball plopped right through the net just as the final buzzer sounded, and shock waves went through the air.
However, let’s rewind back to how it got to that point. Both teams were tied with 14:51 left in the first half. A couple more series ensue, and then Seton Hall found themselves leading 14-11. The Pirates would then go on a big 14-2 run that set the tone for the first half. Seton Hall was shutting down the perimeter, something they were able to do early on in their previous meeting at the Pavilion. Villanova shot just 1 for 8 from beyond the arc in the first half alone. Inside, Seton Hall was able to limit JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu. The two combined for only 5 points and 4 rebounds in the first half. A 7-2 run by Villanova helped them cut into the lead. The Pirates took a 34-26 lead into the half. The one bright spot for the Wildcats was the play of their freshmen. Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins really stepped it up for this game. The duo combined for 13 points, matching the offensive production by Villanova’s starters in the first half.
The second half seemed to be a continuation of the first. Seton Hall was hovering around a double digit lead for a long while. Villanova began to fight back, and thanks to a 16-0 run, they were able to take the lead for the first time. The run was capped off by a Darrun Hilliard three pointer. Seton Hall would not go away quietly, they were able to tie it and then bring the lead back to five. Villanova would respond, and after a back and forth series, the game would be tied once again off of a Pinkston free throw with just under a minute to go. The Pirates’ Patrik Auda drove inside the paint, when Ryan Arcidiacono was able to strip the ball and run it down to the other end where he found Josh Hart to finish with a layup. Villanova was now up by one. After a time out, Gibbs was able to find a wide open Jaren Sina in the corner for a three pointer to take the lead. It looked like Villanova was going to have the last shot. In the Wildcats’ final possession, Hilliard drove inside and put the ball up for the shot. It hit all over the place until it fell through the hoop. The Pirates quickly drove the ball up the court and called a time out. In the final possession, Sterling Gibbs made the heartbreaking shot to put Seton Hall on top.
For Villanova, missed free throws were the big overarching issue. The Wildcats finished 15 for 25 from the line. If they made just a few more, the result would be different, but it is what it is. Hart stepped it up today and led the pack with 18 points and 8 rebounds. Hilliard and Pinkston both finished with 11 points each. Hilliard had four rebounds and a pair of steals to go with today’s performance. Pinkston added 7 rebounds, but shot only 3 for 10 from the free throw line.
For Seton Hall, they were paced by another big game from Eugene Teague. Teague put up another double-double, his 10th of the season, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Auda chipped in 13 points and 4 rebounds. Gibbs also finished in double digits, he had 10 points, 6 assists, and one big shot.
Seton Hall will move on to play #4 Providence on Friday night at 7 p.m. Villanova will go home, but will pay close attention to Selection Sunday that is coming up soon. It will be interesting to see where the committee will place them as the chance for a 1-seed just vanished into thin air. As for the Pirates, unless if they win the tournament, it does not look they will be allowed to join the Big Dance.