NEW YORK, NY - The eighth-seeded Seton Hall Pirates held off the ninth-seeded Butler Bulldogs, 51-50, Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in the first round of the Big East Tournament..
The Pirates exacted revenge on Butler after their March 4 matchup when the Bulldogs thrashed the Pirates by a score of 71-54. Seton Hall finished the regular season with a record of 15-16 and went 6-12 in the Big East. Butler ended the year 14-16 and had a record of 4-14 in the Big East.
The game started with a slow offensive pace. Both team’s played with high-caliber defense. This defensive attack kept the score low and close for most of the first half. The first half ended with the Pirates up 23-22.
The Pirates rallied with an offensive juggernaut in the second half. The Pirates came out hot and took an early thirteen-point lead. A contributor to this heavy offensive attack was Seton Hall forward, Brian Oliver. Oliver contributed 10 points for the Pirates. After the game, Oliver said, “I have to keep being aggressive and keep taking shots.”
Butler worked hard to gain ground on the Pirates in hopes of preserving their NCAA tournament desires. Butler forward, Khyle Marshall laid down an emphatic dunk to incite the crowd in the fourth quarter. This helped Butler cut their deficit to a mere eight points. The Butler student section chanted the resounding, “Bulldogs never quit” chant with their team down by just two points with less than 4 minutes left in the game. It is evident that their chant resonated with their team as Butler came back to play resiliently.
The excitement in the air continued to build as Seton Hall led by only three points with 1:45 left in the matchup. After a decisive 24-second shot clock violation, Butler took possession and followed through with a dunk by sophomore guard Kellen Dunham, which cut the deficit to two points.
There was a glimmer of hope for the Bulldogs with four seconds left in the game. Butler’s Erik Fromm fouled Brandon Mobley and Mobley missed both his free throw shots.
Butler had one last attempt of pulling off a miracle upset. With 3.4 seconds left in the game, Butler’s Alex Barlow attempted a buzzer-beater heave. Unfortunately for him it wasn’t enough and the ball rattled out of the basket to give Seton Hall the victory.
The Pirates kept the game close with exceptional defense led by senior, Fuquan Edwin. Edwin is a New Jersey native from Paterson. He was selected as this year’s Big East defensive player of the year. Edwin is also a force to be reckoned with on offense, as the tenth highest scorer in the Big East, averaging 15.8 points per game. Wednesday night, Edwin battled past the flu. Despite the illness, he added ten points, three rebounds, and three assists.
Seton Hall is very focused on their next matchup. Oliver said, “We need to refocus and understand the type of team that we are playing. We just need to go out and play basketball. We are just going to leave it all out there.”
Seton Hall coach, Kevin Willard offered similar words of wisdom on Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup against Villanova, saying, “Everybody knows everybody. We are going to go back and watch film tonight. We know their personnel and they know ours.”
Hoping to extend their streak, the Pirates will play the top seed, Villanova Thursday at noon. If Seton Hall is able to pull off a Cinderella story victory against Villanova, then they will advance to the semifinal round of the tournament. Seton Hall has been to nine NCAA tournaments in school history. This year, the Pirates hope to obtain their 10th NCAA tournament appearance. An even bigger feat that the Pirates hope to attain is winning the Big East Tournament. The Pirates have only won the Big East tournament twice in school history. This year, the local New Jersey team hopes to shock the world and claim a third Big East championship.