NEWARK, N.J. – History will show that on this day Seton Hall defeated No. 25 ranked Xavier 73-71 in a men’s basketball game on Feb. 9 at the Prudential Center.
The more important results are likely to be realized later in the season as the win moved both teams into a tie in the Big East standings with identical 6-6 records as both teams challenge for an upper-division finish heading into the upcoming conference tournament.
The victorious Pirates, who improved to 15-7 overall, learned the importance of putting a team away when the opportunity presents itself. The visiting Musketeers, which fell to 16-7, learned that sticking to the gameplan in the face of adversity can put a team in a position to win the game at the end.
The Pirates always had an answer when it mattered most.
Seton Hall used an 8-0 scoring spurt in the first half to help in forging a 37-27 lead at the intermission. But that advantage quickly dwindled in the second half as the Musketeers fashioned a 9-2 run to start the half to pull to within 39-36 on a 3-pointer from Jack Nunge from the left wing with 16:54 to go in the game. A driving layup from Paul Scruggs just over two minutes later pulled the Musketeers to within 41-40.
Jamir Harris provided the Pirates with the answer to Scruggs’ and the visitors when he responded with a layup of his own to keep Seton Hall ahead on the scoreboard.
It proved to be a harbinger of things to come on the scoreboard as the Pirates continued to ward off the pesky Musketeers the rest of the way.
Alexis Yetna’s basket from returned Seton Hall to a double-digit lead at 55-45 with 9:52 remaining in the game.
The Musketeers seemed content on sticking to the gameplan and making things interesting down the stretch as they began chipping away at the deficit.
Scruggs threw up a desperation attempt that narrowly beat the shot clock to cap a 14-7 run by Xavier to pull his team to within 62-59 with just under four minutes to play
A 3-pointer from Jared Rhoden and a steal from Myles Cale that he converted into an easy layup pushed the Seton Hall lead back to eight points with 3:06 left in the contest. The two plays spanned just seven seconds to give the Pirates some breathing room with a 67-59 advantage and setting the stage for a furious finish.
Scruggs added four more points as part of a 10-4 run that as Xavier clawed back to within striking distance. His driving layup with 6.3 seconds remaining pulled the Musketeers to within 71-69. He sank two more free throws with 3.9 to go to pull his team to within 72-71.
A Harris free throw with less than two seconds left proved to be enough to lift the Pirates to the win.
Nunge, a transfer from Iowa, scored seven of the first nine points for the Musketeers, including his final points of the stretch when Seton Hall’s Ike Obiagu was called for goaltending on a shot that replay appeared to show the ball was still on the way up when swatted away.
A free throw from Tyrese Samuel gave the Pirates a 12-11 lead with 12:06 left to go in the first half and Seton Hall would not trail the rest of the way despite several attempts from by Musketeers to regain the lead.
Rhoden led all scorers in the game with 25 points for the Pirates thanks in large part to 5-of-8 shooting from behind the arc in the game. He also shared game-high honors with two teammates with eight rebounds in the contest.
He was joined in double figures by Yetna, who tallied 12 points for Seton Hall.
Nunge and Scruggs were the only two Musketeers to end the game in double figures. Nunge finished with 22 points and Scruggs was right behind with 21 points.
Seton Hall is scheduled to play at Villanova on Feb. 12 and travels to Connecticut (Feb. 16) before returning home Feb. 19 to entertain DePaul at the Prudential Center.
Xavier plays Connecticut on Feb. 11 in the Queen City in its next contest.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.