March 13, 2014
BIG EAST Tournament Central
By Sean Brennan
Special to BIGEAST.com
The third time was the charm for Seton Hall.
Just four days ago Seton Hall watched Butler turn cozy Hinkle Fieldhouse into a House of Horrors for the Pirates as the binge-shooting Bulldogs sank 11 three-balls - seven coming from Kellen Dunham - as they rolled to lopsided victory.
So the game plan Wednesday night in the Pirates' BIG EAST tournament first-round game was a rather simple one for Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard: Limit Dunham's damage and he'll deal with the rest of the Bulldogs.
The plan worked - but just barely. Seton Hall, which owned a 13-point lead with just under 10:00 to play, had to sweat out Alex Barlow's desperation heave at the buzzer before the Pirates could exhale as Seton Hall hung on for a 51-50 victory at Madison Square Garden.
The eighth-seeded Pirates (16-16) move on to face top-seeded Villanova in a quarterfinal matchup Thursday at noon. Villanova swept the season series from Seton Hall, winning 83-67 in Newark before posting a 70-53 decision in Philly.
"We were going to give up some jumpers to (Khyle) Marshall and maybe some jumpers to Barlow which we did," Willard said. "But (Dunham) just killed us (Saturday) and if you let him get going you're going to be in for a long night. For the most part we did a really good job on him."
Dunham, who came in averaging a Butler-best 16.8 points a game, went scoreless in the first half and didn't log his first points until 6:18 remained in the game. He finished with four points on 2-for-10 shooting.
Seton Hall, which was swept in the season series by Butler (14-17) took an early 5-4 lead on a three-pointer by Brian Oliver (10 points) and never trailed again in the game. In fact, once the Pirates built their biggest lead of the game at 45-32 on another Oliver three-ball, it appeared the Hall might coast to the finish line.
But Butler was having none of it as the Bulldogs, who were led by Marshall's game-high 22 points, reeled off a 14-3 spurt to pull within 48-46 after a put back by Kameron Woods. A free throw by the Hall's Eugene Teague with 3:04 to play followed by a Teague layup with 2:10 to go put the Hall back up, 51-46. But Marshall answered with a dunk with 1:50 to go to pull Butler within three again before a Dunham steal and layup got the stomach acid really flowing for Willard as the Bulldogs were now down just 51-50 with 47.4 to play.
Seton Hall had a chance to finally put things away in the waning seconds but Sterling Gibbs' three-point attempt missed with 13 seconds to play. That gave Butler an opportunity to go for the win but Fuquan Edwin, Seton Hall's all-time steals leader, swiped a Dunham pass to seemingly snuff Butler's final chance at pulling out the win. But when the Hall's Brandon Mobley missed the front end of a one-and-one with four seconds remaining, it gave Butler one last life. But Barlow's heave was off the mark and Seton Hall had survived.
It was quite the turnaround performance for the Pirates after Saturday's smackown at Hinkle.
"These guys have always bounced back pretty good," Willard said. "We went back, saw our mistakes and said if we correct these we'll have a pretty good chance. It's the BIG EAST tournament. If you can't get ready for the BIG EAST tournament then there's something wrong with you."
Willard said he wasn't even sure if Teague, who has been battling the flu the last several days, would be available for Wednesday night's game. But Teague thought otherwise.
"This is my last go-round," said Teague, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. "I wasn't going to sit out. I was going to battle through it."
For Marshall, it was a bitter pill to swallow in his final game for Butler.
"I can't believe it's over," Marshall said. "It hit me pretty hard."