NEWARK – It was clearly evident from the tip that these were two desperate teams. Two teams on the NCAA Tournament bubble, undeniably close to being on the outside looking in.
With Fuquan Edwin fouling out with 6:43 left in the game and Seton Hall down 61-57, it appeared as if things were beginning to look grim for Seton Hall.
“I was a little nervous when that happened,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “Fuquan has been playing at such a high level, to get him out of the lineup was tough for us.”
What was once a 12-point lead on Pittsburgh in the first half thanks to the hot hand of Aaron Cosby (19 points) seemed like ages ago.
But when it looked like a game they had to have may be slipping away, the Pirates sought refuge from their two senior leaders. Carrying Seton Hall (17-8, 6-7 Big East) all season, Jordan Theodore (15 points and nine assists) and Herb Pope (19 points and 14 rebounds) would lead a 13-4 run to close out the game en route to a 73-66 win over Pitt (15-11, 4-9 Big East).
With the shot clock ticking down with under a minute to play, Theodore and Pope went to a two-man game. Guarded by Ashton Gibbs, Theodore would get a pick set by Pope. Pope would roll off the pick to the opposite block and get a feed on a nifty bounce pass by Theodore.
Up 69-66 with 0:32 left, Brandon Mobley would poke loose the ball from Tray Woodall with 0:17 left to seal the Panthers' fate.
Now — a month after the Hall’s once promising season and an NCAA Tournament berth started to unravel — they are back in a position to be in the Big Dance.
After snapping their size game losing streak, Seton Hall has gotten off schneid.
“This is the way we played early,” Willard said. “It was good too see us play unselfish and together the whole game.”
More importantly, back-to-back wins keeps their hopes alive that they can still be a part of March Madness.
“It keeps us alive, that’s for sure. Obviously we don’t have an easy schedule coming up,” Willard said.
With that schedule — which includes playing at Cincinnati and hosting Georgetown and archrival Rutgers — the Pirates need to continue to play with the desperation that they exhibited today.
And that may not be such a bad thing.
“Sometimes being a little desperate is the best thing,” Pope said. “Some people say when you get into a fight it’s always good to have a little fear because you don’t know what you’re capable of doing and that’s how we’re looking at everything right now.”
A loquacious Theodore took it to another level, saying his team has no more margin for error.
“We need to win out,” Theodore said. “To get to where we want to get and be in the position we want to be in, we need to win out and guys understand that so we’re taking it one game at a time and with St. John’s coming in on Tuesday we have a short turnaround but we’re going to be ready to play.”