The 23rd ranked Villanova Wildcats ended their regular season with a 79-75 loss to the Seton Hall Pirates. This loss brought to the Wildcats record to 22-9 overall and 13-5 in the Big East while the Pirates improved to 18-12 overall and 9-9 in the Big East.
The Wildcats started out cold as they missed their first 3 shots before sophomore Jermaine Samuels scored a layup after 4:35. This started a hot stretch where the Cats’ scored on 3 straight possessions to make it a 10-8 deficit going into the first TV timeout. The two sides battled back and forth for the rest of the half until the 6 minute mark when Seton Hall closed the half on a 15-5 run to take a 39-28 lead into the break.
Samuels and fellow sophomore Collin Gillespie were able to keep the ‘Cats in the game as the combined for 20 of Villanova’s 28 points to open the game. The Pirates displayed a more balanced offense where Myles Powell, Myles Cale and Jared Rhoden scored 9 each with Sandro Mamukelashvili chipping in 8 points.
Seton Hall opened the second half by scoring the first 5 points which extended their lead to 44-28 and a game high 16 point advantage. Villanova stayed resilient as the ‘Cats answered with an 11-0 run of their own to cut the deficit to 44-41. The Pirates remained unfazed as a few minutes later, superstar Myles Powell hit a 30-foot 3-pointer to send to the crowd into a frenzy and build their lead up to 56-45.
The ‘Cats kept chipping away at the deficit but were never able to take the lead. After Gillespie hit a free throw to make it a 66-65 game, the Pirates responded with a 7-0 run to build another comfortable lead. Seton Hall was able to hold this lead for the rest of the game and win by the final score of 79-75.
Villanova’s comeback attempt fell short as multiple players succumbed to mental mistakes in the final minute. Down by 3 with about a minute remaining, sophomore Dhamir-Cosby Roundtree committed an intentional foul too early which resulted in 2 free throws for the Pirates. Senior Joe Cremo made the same mistake a few seconds later. In both situations, the ‘Cats had enough time to play defense and get a stop while keeping it a one possession game, but instead allowed the Pirates make it a two possession game both times. The final mistake was committed by senior Eric Paschall who tried to intentionally miss a free throw while down 3 in an attempt to get an offensive rebound. However, Paschall failed to hit the rim making it impossible to get to ball back.
The ‘Cats played a short rotation as every starter played over 27 minutes with Cosby-Roundtree and Cremo as the only players off the bench. This game would have been even more starter heavy if Gillespie wasn’t in early foul trouble. Despite the fouls, Gillespie brought out of his shooting slump by scoring a game-high 22 points on 8-12 shooting. Booth added 16 points and 4 rebounds and assists while Paschall chipped in 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. Samuels and Saddiq Bey were also in double digits with 10 and 13 points respectively.
On Seton Hall’s Senior Day, it was the sophomores and freshmen who stole the show. Myles Powell continued his hot play by scoring 20 points along with 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Mamukelashvili scored 12 points with 18 rebounds while Cale dropped 19 points of his own. However, the story of the night was freshman Jared Rhoden scoring a career high 15 points off the bench. It was the perfect final game for senior Michel Nzei who scored his own 10 points.