The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports
It's safe to say that Villanova had Seton Hall's number entering Monday evening. The night began with the number ten, but ended with the number - one. One-for-February and what may possibly be the beginning of a new winning streak for Seton Hall as they defeated Villanova 66-65 in an absolute thriller from Newark. The Pirates hosted a Wildcats team that had beaten them in ten straight contests and while they also faced a nine-game conference losing streak, Seton Hall had no interest in extending two losing streaks to double-digits. After 39 minutes and 44 seconds, Tom Maayan and Fuquan Edwin found a way to will their club to a feel good win, finally.
The first half saw the Pirates light it up from the great beyond (8-for-13), led by Kyle Smyth (12 pts, 4-of-7 3PT), who received the start at the two and a boost off the bench from Brian Oliver (11pts, 3-of-4 3PT). Despite ridiculously hot shooting from deep, Seton Hall was equally as cold around the basket, clanking numerous close-range field goal attempts, making good on just 1-of-9 from inside. The biggest beneficiary of the hot outside shooting was starting point guard, Aaron Cosby (21pts/6ast/5reb), who struggled with his own shot, but managed to record 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 0 turnovers, in an efficient opening 20 minutes. As the smoldering nets were extinguished at intermission, the Pirates probably should have held a manageable lead, but instead, due to nine turnovers and getting out-rebounded (15-to-10) on the glass, they found themselves tied with a hungry Villanova club clinging to the NCAA bubble.
Aaron Cosby kept the ball in his own hands to start the second half, and it paid dividends, scoring 11 of Seton Hall's first 13 points, as he singlehandedly fought off Villanova in the opening 8 minutes. However, the Pirates' all too familiar turnover problem would rear it's ugly head as the Wildcats settled, and honed, in. Seton Hall turned the ball over SEVEN times in a ten minute span, six of which, were at the hands of their point guards. Eight lead changes later and a team was finally able to build a lead greater than four points, unfortunately, it went to the bad guys as the 'Cats took a five-point lead when Eugene Teague fouled out, hacking JayVaughn Pinkston with 5:32 in regulation.
Trailing by three points with under 3 minutes on the clock, a loose ball opportunity put Tom Maayan in position to win a belated Oscar following Sunday evening's ceremonies. At the tail end of the scrum, Maayan hit the deck in an obvious flop and a technical foul was ruled on Pinkston, fouling him out. After the officials went to the monitors, they changed their call to a double-technical. Still, Maayan's mission was accomplished and Pinkston would be faced to sit for the remaining 2 and a half minutes. Removing Pinkston from the game was an extremely heady play by the freshman, but it was far from his best play of the night.
Following a Fuquan Edwin layup that cut the deficit to a single point, Aaron Geramipoor appeared to have an easy tip-in on the next Seton Hall possession that would have given Seton Hall the lead. Instead, the putback tailed off, Nova rebounded and following a full timeout, Darrun Hilliard drained a huge 3-pointer with 1:20 on the clock. Brian Oliver worked his way to the line on the next possession and made both of his throws, setting his teammates up for one last chance (or so we thought) defensively. Ryan Arcidiacono ran a designed play for Yarou beautifully, wasting almost the entire shotclock before finding his forward for an open 15-foot baseline jumper that extended the Wildcats lead to 4 points with 27 seconds remaining.
On the next Seton Hall possession, Fuquan Edwin drew a foul and like Oliver, made good on both of his free throw attempts. The Wildcats inbounded the basketball clearly expecting the Pirates to foul, but instead they were met with a trap out of the in-bounds pass. Tom Maayan and his late game heroics rose to the occasion once again as he slapped the ball away from James Bell, corraled the rock and found a floating Fuquan Edwin setting up wide-open for a corner three. Picture perfect. Buckets. Excitement. One month of disappointment, no more. Streak(s) snapped.
It's only one game in a largely disappointing season, and it's only their third conference victory, but one week after their head coach called out the players' lack of effort and one day after Steve Politi called out Kevin Willard for, well, almost everything, there was no quit from the Pirates, or their head coach this evening. One game to enjoy, one week to rest before Providence and one game (at least) with Rutgers remaining. Goodbye ten. Hello One.