Photo courtesy of Seton Hall University Athletics.
By David Cordova
This is Part 2 of a six-part series on the Seton Hall Men’s Basketball program, as it goes through the month of December. Part 2 talks about the big game against Kentucky, rated the No. 9 team in the nation by the Associated Press, in Madison Square Garden in New York City.
After losing to Louisville last Saturday, the Seton Hall Pirates regrouped on Tuesday, when they went and played and routed New Hampshire, 77-57, at their home arena, the Prudential Center, in Newark, New Jersey.
With that matchup over with, it was time to focus on the biggest matchup of them all, the University of Kentucky. The Kentucky Wildcats are one of college basketball’s most prominent programs and as of the time of this writing, are rated No. 9 in the nation by the Associated Press. Before this game, the Pirates were 1-1 in the all-time matchup against the Wildcats and last played against them in the Great Alaska Shootout on November 26th, 1988, where they beat them 63-60.
This time, the Pirates were out to make a statement and by the time game was over, they would shock the world, as they would do it in the friendly confines of the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, in New York City, which is also the home of the Big East Tournament and the place where Seton Hall has had plenty of magic moments. This game, the CITI Hoops Classic, would prove to be another Garden classic.
Early in the game, it was a close, yet, low-scoring affair. However, Kentucky’s sophomore forward held it down with his low-post play for the Wildcats and also senior forward Reid Travis and freshman point guard Immanuel Quickley also provided contributions. However, Seton Hall countered with Quincy McKnight and Taurean Thompson’s scoring. But Kentucky would go into intermission leading 31-25.
In the second half, it continued to see a see-saw battle throughout the game. However, Kentucky took a 67-64 lead with 1:48 remaining in the second half, but the Pirates kept trying to force a turnover with their pressure defense. Myles Powell got the ball with 1:13 left and hit a three-pointer to tie the game, 67-67.
Then, with 29 seconds left in the regulation, the Pirates got the ball to hold for a final shot. Seton Hall put the ball in Powell’s hands and with 1.5 seconds to go in the half, he hit his man with a crossover and hit an off-balance three to give the Pirates a 70-67 lead.
Unfortunately, for the Pirates, the game proved not to be over as Kentucky inbounded the ball to the middle of the court. Freshman guard Keldon Johnson would throw the ball up and it would go in to tie the game as time expired and stun the Madison Square Garden crowd.
The game would go to overtime.
With three players already fouled out of the game, Seton Hall did their best to stay alive. Anthony Nelson and McKnight both made consecutive layups to open overtime and put the Pirates up four, 74-70, with 4:15 to go in the extra period. The lead would be extended to four when Powell buried yet another three with 1:35 to go, making it 81-77.
Kentucky once again would score as freshman guard Ashton Hagans made a layup to make it 81-79 with 1:20 left. Then, the Pirates missed a shot, and Johnson would hit another three to put the Wildcats ahead, 82-81 with 42 seconds left.. Nelson then committed a foul, which sent Hagans to the free throw line, where he sank one of two free throws to give the Wildcats an 83-81 lead with 24.9 seconds to go.
And then that’s where the big moment happened. McKnight dribbled from the far corner into the paint with no luck, but then he would find Thompson at the top of the key. Thompson pump-faked his defender, dribbled in and then passed to Myles Cale to the right. Cale then pump-faked his defender to free himself up, and he drilled the three with 9.5 seconds to go and put the Pirates on top 84-83.
Kentucky would get one final chance to win the game when Johnson would shoot another off-balance, long-distance shot with 1.5 seconds to go. But this time, it would not make the net, or the rim, as the game ended and Seton Hall would pull off the improbable upset.
Although the Pirates were in foul trouble throughout the second half, they mustered toughness and would continue to hold it down to the very end. This win would be big for their program, as it is their first win against a nationally-ranked top-10 program since January 26th, 1992, when they knocked off Ohio State, who was then ranked No. 6 in the nation.
This was a great win for the program and for the school, as it lets the world know that the Seton Hall Pirates, are for real. Now, that this big win has been accomplished, the next game will be even bigger for them, as they will face off against Rutgers on Saturday, December 15th at the Prudential Center in the Garden State Hardwood Classic. Hopefully, this next one will be another big game in the storied rivalry between these two teams. But for now, the Kentucky win will be even sweeter.
Part 3 in this six-part series on Seton Hall Men’s Basketball will be on several newcomers, such as freshmen Anthony Nelson, Jared Rhoden and Darnell Brodie, as well as juniors Quincy McKnight & Taurean Thompson, as they will speak about their experience in joining the Pirates. This article will be released on Thursday, December 13th: