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Seton Hall locks in NCAA Tournament bid after home win over Villanova

Seton Hall improved their NCAA Tournament resume after a 79-75 win over nationally ranked Villanova at the Prudential Center on Saturday.

Heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale, Seton Hall needed one more win to solidify their NCAA Tournament standing. With Championship Week already underway, another resume-building victory could make their case for a possible at-large bid even stronger. Defending NCAA champion Villanova Wildcats came to Newark on Saturday looking not to be Seton Hall’s resume builder.

Seton Hall accomplished their mission defeating No. 23 Villanova 79-75 in front of a raucous crowd at the Prudential Center. The win may have guaranteed the Pirates a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The victory may have also helped them avoid playing in the dreaded First Four play-in games.

Seton Hall started fired up forcing a couple of early turnovers. The intensity waned after defensive stopper Quincy McKnight picked up his second foul early in the first half. After a fast start, The Hall went scoreless for almost three minutes allowing Villanova to regain momentum and trail by two at the 11:!4 mark of the first half. Jared Rhoden, who scored a career-high 15 points, scored the next ten Seton Hall points as they extended the lead to 24-15 midway through the half.

The pace of the game slowed considerably as in typical Big East fashion, the game became a battle of attrition. The Hall ended the defensive standstill with a 15-5 run to take a 39-28 lead to the locker room.

Villanova left the locker room with a newfound aggressiveness. The Wildcats went on an 11-0 run over four minutes until a Myles Cale three-pointer stopped the Pirate drought. While Seton Hall (18-12 overall, 9-9 Big East) struggled for a stretch, their defense awakened. They went on a small run, paced by a Myles Powell trey, to bring the Prudential Center crowd back to their feet.

Later in the second half, the Pirates went without a field goal for almost four minutes. Villanova (22-9overall, 13-5 Big East) cut the lead to 63-61 with under six minutes remaining after bottling up the shooters of The Hall. The teams tightened up their defense once again as Seton Hall swarmed Villanova anytime they touched the ball. Cale nailed a three-pointer with 1:27 to go to extend The Hall lead and the celebration started in Newark. A couple of Powell and senior Michael Nzei free throws iced the game and gave the Pirates the critical win in Nzei’s final home game.

“He does not get enough credit,” Seton Hall coach KevinWillard said. “When he came back, it just gave confidence in me knowing that someone’s going to pass down the baton, and he’s a guy that takes a lot of pride in how he does things, takes a lot of pride in what this program means. I think he’s done a phenomenal job of passing that baton to this next group.”

Four Pirates finished in double figures led by Powell with 20 points while Cale finished with 19 in the win. Sandro Mamukelashvili scored 12 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for the Pirates.

Colin Gillespie was Villanova’s only consistent offensively weapon as he scored 22 points for the Wildcats.

According to both CBS Sports and ESPN, Seton Hall was slotted in as a number ten seed in the West Region as of Friday. With a tournament bid earned, Seton Hall will be playing for seeding at The Garden next week.

Kahlil Thomas

Kahlil is the College Sports Editor for DoubleGSports.com as well as a columnist, hosting the Bump 'N Run column once per week. He also co-hosts a weekly basketball podcast, The Box Out, every Thursday evening with fellow DoubleGSports.com writer Jason Cordner.
Kahlil Thomas
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