Seton Hall welcomed Oklahoma to the metro area on Friday evening and after a fast-paced, defensively challenged first half, the Pirates were poised to send the Sooners home, leading by 6 points with 34 seconds remaining. The Pirates unfathomably found a way to choke away a date with the Michigan State Spartans, as they found a brand new way to lose a ball game, falling to the Sooners, 86-85.
Despite one of the worst losses you will ever witness, the Pirates won't simply get off by taking a giant lump and moving on, no, the picture is potentially much bleaker. Patrik Auda left the game midway through the 1st half, and we learned that he will likely miss time after re-injuring the right foot he broke last season. At halftime, Kevin Willard told Craig Sager, "[Auda] needs an MRI. It's the same foot that he broke last year. We're going to say a prayer, it looks like he'll be out for some time." Auda isn't the only Pirate that needs prayers, I think the entire team could use a few. A few thousand. From all of us at SOJ, we're hoping for the best for Auda who was playing at such a high level and with a newfound aggressiveness on display this season. Get well soon, Patrik.
The Sooners maintained control for much of the first half and seemed to have the Pirates in danger at the under-8 timeout. Oklahoma's defense flustered a Seton Hall team that couldn't get anything going inside, but some hot outside shooting (7-of-14 in 1H), kept Seton Hall in striking distance. Following the media timeout, an insanely hot Brian Oliver (19PTS/5-3PT) and strong interior play from Eugene Teague (10PTS/9REB), saw the Pirates re-take the lead 3 times in the final 3 minutes. As it appeared they had secured the momentum heading into the half, Oklahoma ripped off a backbreaking 5-0 run, to nurse a 3-point lead at the break.
Enter Sterling Gibbs. Have I mentioned that it is such a joy to watch him play for Seton Hall? He is absolutely for real and any talk of him moving off of the ball needs to be immediately thrown out the window, never to be spoken of again. As we have seen so often throughout this short season, Gibbs (26PTS/5AST) fearlessly put his head down, hit the lane (17-of-20), and found his way to the line throughout the night. Gibbs led Seton Hall to an 11-point lead, before he and Edwin exited prior to the under-12 timeout. With Gibbs and Edwin absent, the Sooners made good on five straight free throws and a series of layups to close the Pirates lead to 4 points at the under-8 timeout.
Over the next four minutes, the two teams traded baskets and mini-runs that featured, you guessed it - more impressive play from Sterling Gibbs. First Gibbs broke off a terrific assist from the top of the key to a dunking Brandon Mobley and followed it on the next possession by finding Brian Oliver for his fifth 3-pointer of the night. A four point play for the Sooners pulled the deficit to a single possession, before Edwin hit his first field goal in a fifteen minute stretch. I noted it on Twitter during the game, but if Gibbs and Edwin ever get it going together, at the same time, there is real potential for some offensive firepower out of these Pirates.
Leading by 6 points with just 32 seconds remaining, Seton Hall simply needed to take care of the basketball and make their free throws. Boy, I wish the story ended there. Gibbs was sent to the line and split his free throws, while Oklahoma answered with a quick field goal, cutting the Pirates lead to four. The Pirates inbounded the ball and were met by an OU press, but instead of holding the ball to seek out a foul, the Pirates attempted to move the rock with a series of sloppy passing.
What followed is simply unexplainable, but I'll try my best to describe the two turnovers and a foul that sent the Sooners to the line with an attempt to tie the game. Jordan Woodard made his first free throw, missed his second, but Seton Hall couldn't corral the loose ball as bodies hit the floor and the the butter coated their hands. The Sooners would regain possession and Maayan was forced to foul Buddy Hield who made both free throws. With 11-seconds remaining, the Pirates had one last possession to win the game, but from the very inbounds pass, the sloppy passing returned and the fumbling continued, all the way down the floor until Brian Oliver's off balance 3-point attempt that never had a chance fell wide, matching the expression on the Pirates' faces - wide in disbelief.
Seton Hall will take on Virginia Tech in tomorrow's consolation game at 7PM. There will be no consolation for this team however, as they literally gave away a huge win and a bigger opportunity. See you tomorrow.