Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Seton Hall stuns 'Nova

NEW YORK — Kevin Willard was being interviewed on live television when Isaiah Whitehead and a couple of his Seton Hall teammates ran up and started rubbing the coach's shaved head.

You can do that when you just led your team to its first Big East tournament title in 23 years.

"Awesome. It's absolutely awesome. It's beyond words," Willard said. "I'm so happy for these kids. … They worked so hard, I'm just so happy for them."

Even the ones who interrupted the interview.

Whitehead earned tournament MVP honors after scoring 26, including the deciding three-point play with 18 seconds left, as the Pirates beat No. 3 Villanova 69-67 on Saturday night.

Whitehead drove hard on the right side, flipped the ball in softly off the glass and was fouled. His free throw gave the Pirates a 68-67 lead.

Villanova had two more chances sandwiched around a free throw by Angel Delgado, but the Pirates held on to beat the defending champions in front of a sellout crowd of 19,812 at Madison Square Garden.

"This whole year coach has been raving about just making winning plays and making winning plays," Whitehead said. "I really just attacked the basket. I felt I had an opportunity to score the ball. I mean, I saw Kris Jenkins coming over and I knew that he wouldn't be able to get in position fast enough for me to draw a charge. I just tried to lay it in on him."

It was Seton Hall's third Big East tournament title, the others coming in 1991 and 1993. The third-seeded Pirates (25-8) earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, their first berth in 10 years.

And they did it by beating No. 5 Xavier in the semifinals then Villanova (29-5) for the title.

"Whoever we play just better watch out," Whitehead said. "We really defend at a high level. When we get on the break, it's hard to stop us. It really doesn't matter who we play; we're up for the challenge."

Seton Hall led for almost the entire game, going ahead by 14 in the first half and 11 at halftime. The top-seeded Wildcats finally started hitting from 3-point range in the second half.

AMERICA EAST: Jameel Warney scored 43 and host Stony Brook (26-6) reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time by coming from behind to beat Vermont 80-74. The Seawolves had reached this point four times in the past five seasons, including the past two years, and lost each time.

C-USA: Reggie Upshaw made two free throws with 2.9 seconds left to lift Middle Tennessee (24-9) to a 55-53 victory over Old Dominion in Birmingham, Ala., giving the Blue Raiders their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2013.

BIG 12: Devonte Graham matched a career high with 27 points, Wayne Selden Jr. added 21 and top-ranked Kansas (30-4) overcame a remarkable performance by West Virginia's Devin Williams for an 81-71 victory over the ninth-ranked Mountaineers (26-8) in Kansas City, Mo. West Virginia had advanced with a 69-67 victory over sixth-ranked Oklahoma late Friday when Sooners star Buddy Hield's half-court shot that banked in was ruled a fraction of a second late.

MAC: Blake Hamilton made a 3-pointer with two seconds left as Buffalo (20-14) defended its conference title with a 64-61 win over Akron in the title game in Cleveland.

MEAC: Reginald Johnson Jr. had 21 points and eight assists as Hampton (20-10) beat South Carolina State 81-69 in Norfolk, Va., to win its second straight conference tournament.

MWC: Marvelle Harris scored 18 to lead Fresno State (25-9) to a 68-63 victory over San Diego State in Las Vegas, clinching its first NCAA berth since 2001.

SWAC: Adrian Rodgers made a jump shot with 17 seconds left to lift Southern University (22-12) to a 54-53 victory over Jackson State in Houston, clinching the Jaguars' first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013.

DIVISION II: Eckerd (25-7) fell 88-85 in overtime to Union (Tenn.) in the South Region quarterfinals in Huntsville, Ala. Roy Bullock hit a 3-pointer to open overtime, and the Bulldogs never trailed again. … Saint Leo (19-12) lost 98-81 to Alabama-Huntsville despite a career-high 31 points from Tyreece Brice.

LATE FRIDAY: Jakob Poeltl scored 29 and Lorenzo Bonam dribbled the length of the court to score at the buzzer in regulation, helping No. 12 Utah (26-7) outlast No. 24 California (23-10) 82-78 in overtime in the Pac-12 semifinals in Las Vegas. The Utes faced No. 8 Oregon late Saturday night for the conference tournament championship.

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