The defending national champion Villanova Wildcats were held to their lowest point total of the season by Seton Hall's two-three zone on Saturday in the Big East semifinals at Madison Square Garden, but held on to win by a score of 55-53.
The Cats averaged nearly 79 points per game during the regular season but were struggling mightily in the first half. Meanwhile, the Pirates were swaggering with big time confidence, inspired by the hot shooting of freshman Myles Powell, as well as the strong rebounding of burly big man Angel Delgado. Seton Hall held Villanova to a measly 26.9% shooting from the field in the first half. Seton Hall went into halftime leading 27-20.
Point guard Jalen Brunson drained the first bucket of the second half, which was a three, and the Garden exploded. Two consecutive turnovers by the Pirates led to back-to-back Villanova buckets.
A mid-range jumper from Desi Rodriguez stopped the momentum somewhat, however, Josh Hart would score off a dribble-drive to bring the Cats within four.
You could feel the offensive momentum swing from the Pirates to Nova at about the nine minute mark. The air within the hallowed confines of Madison Square Garden was electrified unlike at any point in the Big East Tourney thus far. Hart, though he shot the ball poorly, would eventually get his shooting stroke going from the free throw line.
Seeing the ball go throw the basket always has a positive effect on a shooter's confidence, and Hart would proceed to drain a three. At that point, Seton Hall would have go bucket for bucket with Villanova and try to beat them at that own game. Brunson 's confidence has always been sky high, but the way he converted key shots down the stretch was big time.
Hart would make up for having a sub-par shooting night with a clutch put-back with 10 seconds left in the game.
Delgado had a chance to win the game at the buzzer but missed multiple put-backs as time expired. He collapsed in disappointment onto the Garden floor as Villanova cheered. Hart showed tremendous sportsmanship afterwards, comforting the Seton Hall center. The game saw Delgado's thirteen-game streak of double-doubles came to a halt. He finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
The Pirates were led by forward Rodriguez, who scored 14 points while Myles Powell chipped in with 11.
Khadeem Carrington had 11 as well, but largely struggled with his shot all night. Nova marksman Kris Jenkins, swarmed all night, was held to five points on 1-of-8 shooting. Hart's shot was not falling early, but a late-scoring burst gave him 19 points at the horn.