Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Seton Hall stuns 'Nova

Myles Carter leads Seton Hall in celebration after the Pirates clinched an NCAA Tournament berth.

Getty Images

Myles Carter leads Seton Hall in celebration after the Pirates clinched an NCAA Tournament berth.

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.

NCAA automatic bids


Austin Peay Ohio Valley

Buffalo MAC

Chattanooga Southern

Fairleigh Dickinson Northeast

Florida Gulf Coast Atlantic Sun

Fresno State MWC

Gonzaga West Coast

Green Bay Horizon

Hampton MEAC

Holy Cross Patriot


Kansas Big 12

Middle Tennessee C-USA

North Carolina ACC

NC Asheville Big South

NC Wilmington Colonial

Northern Iowa MVC

Seton Hall Big East

South Dakota State Summit

Southern SWAC

Stony Brook America East

Weber State Big Sky

Yale Ivy

Seton Hall stuns 'Nova 03/12/16 [Last modified: Saturday, March 12, 2016 11:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, holds the AFC Championship trophy? as he celebrates with head coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots defeated the the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to advance to the Super Bowl.? (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) FBO247
  2. Sputtering Rays keep falling one run short

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Even going into play against the Angels on Tuesday just a game under .500 at 23-24, the Rays have some issues they have to resolve.

    Rays starter Alex Cobb waits for Mike Trout to finish his trot after homering to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb made mistakes on back-to-back pitches to the first two Angels hitters Tuesday, allowing homers to Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout, but otherwise gave the Rays another solid outing, working into the eighth and scattering seven hits.

  4. Rays journal: Brad Miller won't return from DL when eligible

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — 2B Brad Miller (left abdominal strain) will not return from the 10-day disabled list Friday as he hoped. While he took ground balls Tuesday, he has yet to resume running.

    Rays second baseman Brad Miller, left, with infielder Tim Beckham, says he’s letting his left abdominal strain “cool down” before testing it by running.
  5. USF baseball rallies to beat Tulane in AAC tournament opener


    CLEARWATER — With Tulane runners on first and second and two out in the top of the ninth inning Tuesday, USF's dugout watched as burly American Athletic Conference co-player of the year Hunter Williams' fly to left went deep.

    USF outfielder Chris Chatfield is congratulated by third-base coach Chris Cates after hitting a three-run homer in the third inning, tying the score at 3.