Quarterfinal day of the Big East Tournament is always so fun- four games over a span of 12 hours featuring one of the best conferences in the nation, some of the best players in the country, and the world's most-famous arena. And in the late game, Seton Hall and Creighton delivered the best game of the day, won by the third-seeded Pirates 81-73. This wasn't easy for the Hall but huge performances by Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington lifted the Pirates to the win.
Here are the 5 Thoughts:
1. Refuse to Lose
That's exactly what Whitehead did tonight. After a Carrington jumper and steal, Derrick Gordon went to the foul line with Seton Hall up 2 and 26 seconds left. Gordon missed both shots, but on the second one, Whitehead jumped up to the rafters, snagged the ball and went down hard on his lower back, fouled by Creighton's Geoffrey Groselle. He stepped to the line and hit both the ensuing shots.
The Jays then raced up the floor and Whitehead came up enormous again, blocking a layup by Maurice Watson, Jr., then off the ensuing missed jumper by Cole Huff (more on him in a bit), Isaiah soared over everyone again to snag the board, not to mention hit the next two foul shots as well. It was a remarkable display of winning plays back-to-back-to-back that all but sealed Creighton's fate. Despite making just 5-15 shots from the floor (2-9 from deep), he hit 12-15 free throws and finished with 24 points, a career-best 12 boards and six assists. That's what All-Americans do.
2. Khonfident Khadeen
Boy has Mr. Carrington come a long way with his outside shot since he stepped on campus. Khadeen showed off a smooth lefty stroke from the outside, ending up with a career-best 27 points on 10-17 from the floor, hitting 5-9 threes. He also continued to have an incredible knack for the clutch shot, hitting a couple of them in the second half when the Blue Jays made it a ballgame. It was his short jumper that un-tied the score at 73-73, and his line in the second half speaks for itself: 18 points, 7-10 shooting, 2-4 from 3, 3 steals and no turnovers.
3. Not All Rosy
I don't want to be that guy, but Seton Hall could have easily lost this game. Angel Delgado was completely neutralized inside, finishing with just 3 points and 8 rebounds, and the Pirates will need more from their inside presence against Xavier on Saturday.
Plus, inexplicably, no one could defend Cole Huff. The Creighton forward seemingly hit every shot he attempted (he was 11-16, 7-11 from deep in the game for 35 points), but the Hall also didn't help themselves by fouling him twice on three-pointers. In all, Seton Hall fouled three three-point shooters- a huge no-no. Aside from Huff, Creighton got back in the game by scoring 16 points off 8 Seton Hall turnovers in the second half.
In short, SHU will need to clean it up against a Xavier team that will be hunting for revenge after the Pirates ran them out of the Prudential Center just two weeks ago.
4. Prudential Center East
That's how Madison Square Garden sounded tonight. A huge shout-out to Seton Hall fans everywhere, who came out in droves to support the team and made the place feel like a home game for the NYC-laden Pirates. They got on the officials, they erupted when appropriate and were very much a part of the atmosphere.
Xavier fans did the same in the early contest when the game was still in doubt against Marquette, however, so for those Pirate fans coming back to the Garden on Saturday, be sure to bring your yellin' voices.
5. Survive And Advance
A mantra to live by this time of year. Seton Hall gets the second seed Xavier in the semifinals on Saturday night, a deep, talented team. The last time they met it was all Seton Hall, as the Pirates won 90-81 thanks to a whale of a first half. They got huge performances that night from Desi Rodriguez (27 with 12 rebounds) and Delgado (17/8). Neither was overly impressive on Thursday night, so one figures that they may be due. Unlike in years past, though, Seton Hall has a puncher's chance. If they are able to get past the Musketeers, who looked really good in their quarterfinal blowout win over Marquette, they will face the winner of Villanova-Providence, and I like the matchup against either of those teams if I'm the Pirates.
Stay tuned for what should be another exciting day of hoops. The Big East Tournament rarely disappoints in that regard.