Where there’s a Willard, there’s a way. Jim Nantz didn’t say that about the Seton Hall Pirates in 2019, but he could have if he wanted to.
Kevin Willard coached. Myles Powell shot the lights out in important moments. Seton Hall made the NCAA Tournament for a fourth straight year despite losing seniors Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington from the 2018 team.
“We fought against adversity,” Seton Hall leading scorer Myles Powell (22.9 points per game) said Monday. “No one expected us to be here. Everybody said this was a rebuilding year. It was up to us to believe in each other and do things that people didn’t think that we could. That’s an achievement.”
It certainly was.
Seton Hall’s season, in microcosm, was embodied by a win over Marquette on March 6, toward the end of the Big East regular season. Down nine with nearly five minutes left in regulation in a game they had to win, the Pirates rode Powell’s back but also played great defense. Powell did most of the scoring, and the five Pirates on the floor shut out Marquette. An 18-0 game-ending run turned that 64-55 deficit into a 73-64 win which changed the mood in the locker room and the course of the season. The Hall rode that win into another Saturday home game against Villanova. Freshly injected with a new dose of confidence, the Pirates won that game and then won two games at the Big East Tournament to earn a No. 10 seed.
Had that 18-0 run not occurred against Marquette two weeks ago, this team might not be in the Big Dance.
Willard credited not only Powell, his star, but role players such as Sandro Mamukelashvili.
“I have a lot of confidence in Myles Cale and Sandro,” Willard said. “I always know Mike is going to be there and give us 12 and 12. The biggest thing is that we try to adjust to is how teams are going to try to play Myles (Powell). The sophomores have done a great job. Quincy McKnight has done a great job at the point guard. We’re just kind of made up it’s not going to be the same guy.”
The Hall will try to deck Wofford in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Pirates face the Terriers Thursday, March 21, in Jacksonville, at 6:40 p.m. Eastern.
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