No. 15 Seton Hall’s march back to prominence hit a major roadblock on Saturday as the Pirates fell 71-65 to Rutgers in Piscataway.
The battle between New Jersey rivals featured the highest-ranked Seton Hall team since 2001 and an eye-popping collapse in the second half. After going up 42-32 at halftime, the Pirates fell apart down the stretch, allowing a 17-2 run by Rutgers to close out a win for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers holds No. 15 Seton Hall without a FG for final 6:06 as the Scarlet Knights knock off their New Jersey rival, 71-65. pic.twitter.com/9HZ1lGCYIt
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) December 16, 2017
Four starters for Seton Hall scored at least 10 points (Myles Powell led the Pirates with 18), only center Angel Delgado failed to reach that mark, though he finished with seven points and 21 rebounds. None of that mattered as Rutgers came storming back late in the game. Corey Sanders led the Scarlet Knights with 22 points (9-for-16 from the field) while Deshawn Freeman (12 points, 16 rebounds) picked up his fifth double-double of the season.
There are very few ways the season could shake out where this doesn’t end up as a massive blemish on Seton Hall’s resume. It also could end up as one of the more important teaching moments on closing out for head coach Kevin Willard. Even after beating previously ranked Texas Tech and Louisville, this is a tough loss. Seton Hall had defeated Rutgers by an average of 18 points in their last four meetings.
The loss moves the Pirates to 9-2 on the year and gives a huge boost to a 10-3 Scarlet Knights team in search of a signature victory before January. After three straight losses to Florida State, Michigan State and Minnesota, Rutgers now finds itself on a four-game win streak with non-conference games against Hartford and Stony Brook up next. That could go a long way to seeing the Scarlet Knights finish with their first winning season since 2005-2006 — a huge boost for second-year head coach Steve Pikiell.
In any case for either team, it’s still early in the year. But this will be a game that stands out for both teams right up until March.
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