Big East Semis: Villanova, Seton Hall Set Date With Destiny

(Myles Powell (13) and Jared Rhoden (14) after a recent win over Villanova – @SetonHallMBB)

Seton Hall and Villanova has become two of the most consistently dominant teams in the Big East Conference, and in the process, formed one of the best rivalries in college basketball.

It all started when they faced off in the Big East Championship Game in 2016, which Seton Hall won in an upset.

On Friday night at Madison Square Garden, in the Big East Tournament semifinals, Villanova, the top seed in the tournament, came back to beat #4 Xavier in overtime, 71-67, while #3 Seton Hall upset #2 Marquette, 81-79, to set up another meeting in the tournament’s final game Saturday night at 6:30 p.m.

Seton Hall Head Coach Kevin Willard said of having flashbacks to three years ago, “Yeah, a little bit. I mean, this team reminds me a little bit of that just because we’re young. We play really hard. We’re scrappy. We’re led by a phenomenal player, just like we were with Isaiah (Whitehead), who’s as good as any player I’ve ever coached, but he’s kind of done the same thing as Isaiah. He’s kind of put a team on his back and stayed with it. It’s a testament to him that he’s an emotional kid and he’s our emotional leader and he’s our leader, and he’s done a phenomenal job, just like Isaiah did.”

This also is just one week after Seton Hall won a thriller over Villanova, 79-75, at a packed Prudential Center last Saturday in the regular season finale.

Villanova 71, Xavier 67 (OT):

Xavier dominated this one from the start, with a 34-28 lead at the half, and they kept it up in the second half, as they led by seven points, 55-48, at the 4:44 mark on a Quentin Gooden jumper.

It stayed that way for nearly two minutes, until Villanova’s Jermaine Samuels drained a three-pointer at the 2:57 mark. Phil Booth then got to the line at 2:19, and drained a pair of free throws to make it a two-point game, 55-53.

Zach Hankins got two of those back for Xavier with a layup at 1:07, but Samuels drained another three to make it a one-point game, 57-56, with 52 seconds left.

Hankins got to the line free throw line with 19 seconds left, but he only made one of two free throws, and that opened the door for Villanova. On the Wildcats’ ensuing possession, Phil Booth missed a layup with 9 seconds left, but Eric Paschall swooped in for the rebound and put it back to tie it up at 58, and off to overtime they went.

In the extra session, Hankins opened the scoring with a jumper, but it was all Villanova after that, as Booth made a couple of layups, Paschall made a three, and Samuels drained a three to make it 68-62 with 2:28 left, and they never really looked back, holding on for a 71-67 win.

Villanova was led by Booth, who had 28 points on 9-20 from the field, including 4-10 from behind the arc, with 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Samuels finished with 17 points (5-14 FG, 4-10 three-pointers), with 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Paschall had 12 points (4-11 FG, 1-4 threes), with 5 rebounds.

Xavier was led by Paul Scruggs, who had 28 points on 9-14 from the field, including 4-7 from behind the arc,with 11 rebounds an 7 assists. Hankins finished with 18 points on 8-10 shooting, with 6 rebounds and an assist.

Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said afterwards, “What a fun game to be a part of. When you win, it’s a lot more fun. Either way, the atmosphere in the Garden, Friday night, semifinals, there’s just nothing like it in college basketball. That place was rocking. I just think this is the best tournament in college basketball. This is just an incredible place to play.

“A lot of credit to Xavier. I told Travis he’s making it look easy. First year, he did a lot with this team. They’ve got a young team too. They were playing as well as anybody in the conference coming down the stretch, and we knew it. This was no surprise at all. They were extremely tough defensively. They got a lot of answers offensively. Scruggs is awesome. Hankins inside. They’re a really good team. I thought it was big when (Naji) Marshall — he’s another great player.

“Finally, just leadership from two great seniors (Paschall and Booth), who have done it their whole careers, their whole lives. They’ve done it in high school and college. We’re just really lucky to have these two.”

Wright said of sticking with Samuels after he started shooting 2-10 and if he or his teammates said anything special to him, “Jermaine’s got a great attitude. He really doesn’t need encouragement. He is kind of a young basketball player, kind of just got to give him — we all just give him little thoughts, like he was open. He was driving the ball. We said to him, “Take your shot.” It’s simple. He does not fear failure. He stays aggressive. It’s a special characteristic he has, and it was big tonight.”

Wright said of their offensive issues through the night until it clicked in the final minutes and OT, “We really couldn’t run any offense. They just were switching everything. We just put it in Phil’s hands, and it’s kind of embarrassing to say as a coach, we didn’t have any offense left. We just put it in Phil’s hands and told him to just make decisions. Drive it if you thought he could get to the rim. If you didn’t, try to find people for threes. When he got hot, it forced him to leave to help, and then he found people for threes.”

Villanova is in the Big East title game for the fifth straight season, and Paschall was asked if they have a feeling that this is their tournament, “I definitely don’t think it’s our tournament. We were just down seven a couple of minutes ago. We try to focus on the next game and focus on the opponent in front of us. It’s great how much the fans come out and support Villanova. You can hear it a lot, especially when the game gets really tight. So we try to take each game and take on our next opponent.”

Seton Hall 81, Marquette 79:

Marquette led this one 36-33 at the half, and then by six points in the early stages of the second half.

Trailing 44-38, Seton Hall needed a dose of Myles Powell, and he made back-to-back three-pointers and then a jumper to complete a personal 8-0 run and give the Pirates the lead.

A couple minutes later, at the 12:48 mark, Powell was fouled hard by Sacar Anim as he went up for a layup. Powell went back at Anim, and a bit of scuffling developed between them, and Marquette’s Theo John and Seton Hall’s Sandro Mamukelashvili jumped in.

The result of this, after a lengthy review was that Anim was given a personal foul and a flagrant 2, so he was ejected; John received a flagrant 2 and he was also ejected, and Mamukaleshvili also received a flagrant 2 and was sent off. A statement from the referee after the game is at the end of this game report.

Despite losing two of their starters, Marquette went back up five again, 63-58, with 7:42 left. Once again, Powell stepped up with back-to-back threes, followed by a Quincy McKnight jumper to take a 66-63 lead with 5:47 left.

Seton Hall would open up a seven-point lead, 74-67, on a McKnight jumper at 2:52, and they would never trail again.

The Pirates were led by Powell, who had 22 points on 7-16 from the field, including 5-10 from behind the arc, with 7 assists and 2 rebounds. McKnight had 18 points on 6-10 shooting, with 4 assists and 3 rebounds. Michael Nzei had 14 points (3-6 FG) and 15 rebounds for a double-double.

Marquette was led by Sam Hauser, who had 22 points on 7-15 from the field, 4-7 from behind the arc, with 9 rebounds and 3 assists.

Seton Hall kept Marquette’s leading scorer, and the Big East Player of the Year, Markus Howard, in check, as he had 21 points, most of which came from the free throw line, where he was 18-24. He was held to 1-15 from the field and 1-9 from behind the arc, with 4 rebounds and 4 assists.

Howard was a combined 3-25 from the field in his last two games against Seton Hall and Willard said of the job Quincy McKnight did to hold him down, “Q and our big guys have done a really good job on his pick-and-rolls, trying not to let him turn the corner. Markus is a phenomenal player, can hurt you in so many different ways. You can tell by how many times he gets to the free-throw line. He uses his body great off pick-and-rolls. But Q’s worked really hard, and I thought Romaro Gill was really good in pick-and-roll defense in the second half, just using his length and being big. I think it helps, when Markus is coming off pick-and-rolls, just trying to make sure he can’t see.”

Willard said of the game, “Yeah, I like the fact that Marquette came out really, really good. Both the Hausers (Sam and Joey) played phenomenal first halves, really, really tough first halves. We got down, and we were a little sluggish today, I thought, mentally. We weren’t as sharp as we have been. But I thought both teams played really, really hard. Both teams fought.

“I’m proud of the way my guys continue to fight even though there’s times we’re not playing overly well.”

This was Seton Hall’s 20th overall victory and second in the Big East Tournament, making it a certainty they will be in the NCAA Tournament once again.

Willard said of what they have to do to be ready Saturday night after having played two straight nights, as Villanova also has, “Hopefully, we can get out of here at some point. (Laughter). Oh, I’m not being funny right now. Was I supposed to be funny right now? Tomorrow is just all on emotion. Nova had a tough double overtime game. Right now it’s just getting back, getting these kids something to eat, get them off their phones, to be honest with you. That’s going to be the hard part. And tomorrow we’ll do the same thing we did today. We’ll wake up and prepare for a really, really good Villanova team.

“I think one reason this game was so chippy is the fact we just played Marquette. So everybody kind of knew everybody what they were doing, and I think it’s the same thing. Nova’s — we kind of know what we have to do, and they know what they have to do against us. So I’m looking forward to it.”

AP REPORTER MIKE FITZPATRICK POOL REPORTER: REGARDING SETON HALL – MARQUETTE TECHNICAL FOULS (3/15/19)

Lead official James Breeding:

“So the initial play when 13 white Powell for Seton Hall drives, he is fouled, common foul by 2 for Marquette. After that foul, the ball’s now dead, Theo John contacts him in a vulnerable position, we deemed the contact severe and ejected him for a flagrant technical foul. That’s kind of sequence one. After that happened, we then had 13 for Seton Hall get up and get into a verbal altercation with 2 for Marquette. They were assesed a double technical foul. That was the second technical foul on 2 for Marquette. By rule, he’s ejected for two unsporting technical fouls. It was the only the first technical foul on 13 for Seton Hall. His play in the first half where he received a flagrant personal foul is not a technical foul. So by rule, he can play with one flagrant personal foul and one technical foul. You have to have two technicals to be ejected. The last part of that sequence is, 23 white for Seton Hall comes in and makes unsporting contact that we deemed severe in nature, and he was ejected for a flagrant technical foul.”

Was there some misunderstanding or miscommunication about whether or not (Powell) had been ejected?

“Yeah. Because he had had a flagrant personal foul in the first half, the Seton Hall bench thought that he was ejected for a second foul, not understanding that _ I won’t say they didn’t understand, but it probably wasn’t communicated clearly to them that his personal foul in the first half is a live ball flagrant personal foul which carries a different penalty than the technical foul, and those two together don’t result in ejection. Only two technical fouls, unsporting technical fouls, result in ejection.”

“The Seton Hall bench thought that he had been ejected. When I saw that he went to the locker room, I went to them and said, `He has one technical foul, one live ball flagrant personal foul, that does not result in ejection. They went and got him back.”

“I think it was announced incorrectly over the PA.”

So you communicated to the bench, basically, he can still play.

“Yes, and then we communicated that to Marquette as well.”

Do any of those penalties have a carry-over effect to the next game?

“They do not. From what we ruled on the floor, they do not. Those were not deemed fighting acts. Ejections do not carry over unless the conference office reviews the play and decides to take further action on its own.”

Was any of that established by you guys looking at the replay monitor?

“No. Some of that we knew and talked about before we got to the monitor, and then at the monitor we confirmed our rulings.”

“We knew and talked about what we had on all of those players mentioned before we got to the monitor, and then confirmed those rulings.”

A lot of whistles late. Did you feel like the game was getting out of hand a little bit?

“I would just say that the fouls that were called are fouls we’ve called all year throughout the season.”

The late technical on McKnight

“The foul was called and he reacted in an unsporting manner.”

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