Photo courtesy of Jeremy Schneider/NJ Advance Media
By David Cordova
As the second half of the conference season approaches, teams are getting ready for the big games that could determine their seeding during their respective tournaments in March, and also are looking to shock heavily-favored opponents.
Seton Hall, who was 13-6 overall and 3-4 in the Big East going into last night’s game, faced a daunting task going up against Butler, 17-3 overall and 6-2 in conference, as well as ranked No. 11 in the country by the Associated Press. But rankings would not matter in this game, as grit and effort would prove to be the deciding factor in one of these teams coming out victorious.
Butler 61, Seton Hall 54
The game started out sloppy for both teams, as both missed easy shots in the first few minutes, with the Pirates shooting 18% from the field and the Bulldogs shooting 10%. For Seton Hall, the bright spot was that Angel Delgado scored their first four points of the game, which helped bring them up 4-3, in the first couple of minutes.
But then the Bulldogs picked up their play and started running their efficient offense, which helped propel them to an 15-5 lead with nine minutes left after consecutive baskets by Kamar Baldwin, Andrew Charbascz and Kethan Savage.
The Pirates struggled to make most of their shots in the first thirteen minutes of the game and at one point, their field-goal percentage was 14% from the field. Butler’s ability to slow down their offense and hold the ball helped keep them ahead in the first half, as well as their outstanding defensive play.
But the Pirates started to make a comeback after Myles Powell hit a three-pointer with 46 seconds left to cut the deficit to seven, 24-17. But the Bulldogs would go into halftime, leading by seven, 26-19, shooting 35% from the field, while the Pirates only shot 21%.
The second half continued with Butler continuing to dominate on both ends of the court, and raised their lead by twelve, 36-24, with 16:33 to go. Then Seton Hall stormed back and cut their deficit to seven, 37-30, with 15:16 to go, after a layup by Desi Rodriguez. Then a three-point play by Rodriguez with 13:30 left, brought them to within three, 37-34.
As the Bulldogs unraveled, the Pirates began to play smarter and used their toughness on the boards to keep the game close. But Powell helped them gain them gain back the lead with a three-pointer, 45-44, with 6:33 to go. But Butler would not go down quietly, as Charbascz converted a three-point play, with 5:39 left to bring them ahead by three, 49-46.
Then Khadeen Carrington would hit a jumper with 4:49 to go to tie the game at 49-49 for Seton Hall. But every time the Pirates had a basket, the Bulldogs would answer, as Savage made a layup with four minutes left to take over the score, 51-49. Moments later, with 2:48 to go, Baldwin calmly hit a three-pointer to bring the Bulldogs up six, 55-49.
The Pirates tried to come back, but the Bulldogs’ defensive tactics proved to be the deciding factor in their victory. Charbascz led Butler with 16 points, Savage added 15 points and 10 rebounds and Kelan Martin contributed a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. For Seton Hall, Delgado contributed 12 points and 22 rebounds, while Rodriguez and Carrington both had off-nights, shooting a combined 9-for-34, but both managed 12 points apiece in the loss.