One of the biggest Big East rivalries for this season took place in the sold-out Wells Fargo Center earlier tonight, the No. 10 Wildcats played the No. 13 Pirates. Seton Hall basketball has lost in Philadelphia since 1994, however that reign came to an end with the 70-64 defeat of Villanova.
The ‘Cats had a slow start trailing by five within the first two minutes. They struggled to find their offensive footing as play progressed. Seton Hall star-guard Myles Powell took advantage of open lanes going up against the ‘Cats in the paint opening the game. Junior Jermaine Samuels dropped two baskets finally putting the ‘Cats on the board followed by two early fouls from freshman Justin Moore.
Both teams fought hard for each possession and basket, knowing the stakes of this Big East Conference matchup. Freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl showcased his defensive talents by leading Villanova with eight rebounds at the end of the first half. The Pirates saw strong performances from Powell (7-16), Quincy McKnight (4-14), and Sandro Mamukelashvili (7-15).
With a little over nine minutes left in the first half, Samuels drains a 3-pointer to close the gap to 20-13, having ten of ‘Nova’s 13 points. Junior Collin Gillespie missed multiple free throws and field goals but found his stride with about two minutes to play when he dropped his first points of the game, 23-25.
Villanova began to find their momentum in the latter part of the half-closing on the Pirates and eventually taking the lead with a Saddiq Bey field goal under the two-minute mark. ‘Nova closed strong leading 31- 27 at the end of the first half.
In the second half, shots did not drop for the ‘Cats, with shots missed from Bey and Gillespie. The Pirates utilized their height in the matchup between Robinson-Earl and 7’2” Romaro Gill. However, Robinson-Earl forces key drives in the paint to tie the score, 38-38. Leading to a constant back and forth battle between the teams throughout the half.
Key performance for the Pirates came from Sandro Mamukelashvili who recently recovered from a wrist injury. “I think what has been impressive about what Seton Hall has done all year is that they have done it all without Sandro,” Head Coach Jay Wright said. “He has been a big part of that team.”
Mamukelashvili rebounded himself three times and finally put up a field goal extending the lead to 51-57. After the Pirates gained the lead they never relinquished until the final buzzer with a 70-64 final.
“We didn’t play poorly, they just played better,” Wright said after the game. Seton Hall proved why they are ranked number one in the Big East after this tough win.
Hoping to end their three-game losing streak, Villanova will face Marquette Feb. 12 at 8:30 p.m. in the Finneran Pavillion.