NEW YORK – On many occasions this season, Seton Hall has seen its fate decided in the last few possessions. Wednesday night, it was on the final one.
The pirates edged Butler 51-50 in the first round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. With just over three seconds remaining, Butler inbounded under its own basket. A long pass allowed for a shot just inside half court. The shot was off, and the Hall survived to face Villanova at noon in the quarterfinals.
Three points of emphasis:
- Turnaround. Seton Hall was handled 71-54 at Butler the past Saturday. What changed? Not too much in the estimation of Kevin Willard. “We watched film of that Butler game and went over our mistakes needed correction,” the Hall mentor said. Getting ready mentally was no problem for his club. “I’ve played and coached as an assistant and head coach in the Big East Tournament.” Willard said. “If you aren’t excited and ready to play, something is wrong.”
- Defense. One of the things needing correction was defense. Khyle Marshall of Butler led all scorers with 22 points and helped Butler trim a 13-point second-half deficit to a one-possession game. Outside of Marshall’s second half, the Hall defended very well. “They defended Kellen Dunham very well,” praised Brandon Miller, the Butler coach. “They extended their zone and kept track of him (Dunham) all night.” Dunham scored four points on 2 of 10 shooting.
- Eugene Teague. Willard praised Teague’s play the last few games. There were even roughly four plays inserted in the offense the last two games designed to get the 6-9 center the ball. Teague proved a tough assignment for the Bulldogs to handle. He scored a team-high 14 points (shooting 6 of 10 from the field), adding 11 boards.
Despite a loss, ending Butler’s season at 14-17, Miller saw favorable points. “I loved the toughness and resiliency of our guys,” he said. “They could have given up tonight, but fought back to get back in it. It just was not to be for us tonight.” The first year head coach cited improvement and “playing our best ball late in the year” as positives to build on. “We are not where we need to be, but obviously are headed in the right direction.”
Seton Hall improved to 16-16 and faces a Villanova team, like Butler, that swept them in the two regular season contests.