Sterling Gibbs' buzzer beater against Villanova did more than win a game

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

All it took was 3.7 seconds.

3.7 seconds of hyper-concentrated anxiety and tension that instantly shapeshifted into ecstasy, exhilaration, and pure joy as Sterling Gibbs' unforgettable 19-foot step-back jumper floated through Madison Square Garden's historic net as time expired last Thursday afternoon.

The game-winner was improbable on paper: It marked the first win for Seton Hall over a top-3 team in program history after 30 fruitless attempts, their first Big East winning streak in two years, and the Pirates' second win against Villanova over their last 14 meetings. All less than 15 hours after playing Butler in the first round of the Big East Tournament the night prior.

But you already knew most of those stats if you've followed the team recently.

Aside from what you know is what you've felt recently. A revived interest in the program, optimism about the future that includes a top-15 recruiting class, hope. Sterling Gibbs' step-back jump shot, a play that is practiced nearly every day according to associate head coach Shaheen Holloway, catalyzed all of that. Whether just briefly or for an extended period of time that spans through the summer, Gibbs and his teammates lifted the spirits of Seton Hall's entire fan base by winning two straight at the Garden, the last of which came in thrilling fashion.

As the ball left Sterling's hands and floated toward the rim as the Garden's clock inched toward all zeroes, it was actively masking the outrage, disappointment, and discontent that was brought upon the program over the course of a second straight season deemed inadequate. A double-overtime turnover fest at Mercer, the collapse against Oklahoma, unthinkable losses to Fairleigh Dickinson and Saint Peter's in a two-week December span, Gene Teague's horror-concussion shortly after, four Big East losses by a single point, and no Big East winning streaks for a second consecutive campaign. All effectively lobotomized with a single jumper.

For now, at least.

It's unclear what the 2014-15 season holds for Seton Hall's program, but it's undeniable that as Sterling Gibbs leapt upon the Madison Square Garden scorer's table after doing the unthinkable last Thursday, he was welcoming in a future in South Orange that will be as riveting and plot-twisting as the game that ended seconds prior.

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