by Josh Adams
Newark, NJ— Xaiver’s J.P. Macura came into Saturday’s game on a mission.
Macura and his fellow seniors had never won on the Prudential Center floor against Seton Hall. Today in Newark he put his team on his back and scored 18 points in the second half and led the #11 Musketeers to a come from behind victory over #19 Seton Hall by the score of 73-64. Macura’s 27 points were a game high for both teams .
The Pirates were itching to get onto their home digs after a disheartening loss at Creighton on Wednesday. A sellout crowd of 10, 481 greeted the home Pirates and the energy was infectious as Seton Hall got off to a fast start. Seton Hall opened up a seven point lead over Xavier at the 13:27 mark of the first half as Pirates center Angel Delgado established his presence early with several rebounds. Xavier struggled to get their offense going in the first eight minutes of the half. It was a promising sign for the Seton Hall faithful as the Pirates have struggled to establish a lead in the first half in their past few games and it looked like the offense turned a corner thanks to Delgado and senior Desi Rodriguez. The mercurial Rodriguez was benched by Willard in the Creighton loss earlier this week and the senior responded by hitting his first few jumpers in today’s contest. Unfortunately for Rodriguez and Seton Hall, foul trouble hit Rodriguez early in the half and clearly disrupted his rhythm as he had to sit on the bench early in the half. His fellow senior Khadeen Carrington picked up where Rodriguez left off and the Pirates kept the Musketeers at bay for the duration of the half and went into halftime with a 35-30 lead.
The veteran Xavier team clearly wasn’t rattled by either the first half deficit or the voracious home fans going into the second stanza. As Seton Hall increased their lead to 10 in the first few minutes in the half, no one sensed any sort of panic from Chris Mack’s well-coached program. The Musketeers methodically started chipping away at the Pirates lead thanks to timely buckets and taking advantage of an obviously tired Delgado. The Musketeers got several second chance opportunities off of rebounds, something that is usually unthinkable when playing Seton Hall. Xavier’s Sean O’Mara put a body on Delgado in the entire second half and rendered him obsolete in the Pirates offense. As the Seton Hall lead shrunk, all Big East player Trevon Bluiett woke up and hit some shots that drew the Musketeers within two points at the midway point of the second half. After some back and forth lead changes, it became Macura’s time to put the team on his back. The senior hit a few free throws and had a put-back dunk at the 1:28 mark of the second half that iced the game for Xaiver. As the sold-out crowd gathered their jackets and left quietly, the Musketeers prevailed with a 73-64 victory.
“This is awesome, I never won here before!”, said a jovial Xavier coach Chris Mack after the win. “Some of the hustle plays my guys made, it made me incredibly proud.”
On J.P. Macura’s play, Mack made a zero symbol with his hand and said, “I see a lot of crowds and student sections get on him and it bothers him this much.”
Seton Hall (15-5, 4-3 Big East) has now lost three out of it’s last four games but now have a bye week before traveling to DePaul next Sunday. Pirates coach Kevin Willard offered little excuse on their loss. “Every team goes through a rough stretch.”, said Willard, ” You’re going to hit a tough stretch in this conference, especially how good the players are and how well coached they are. I have total confidence in where we are, we just need to get back to doing some little things.”
Xavier (18-2, 6-2 Big East) hosts Marquette on January 24th as the Musketeers look to get into the Top 10 this week. These two teams will meet again on Valentine’s Day in Cincinnati and I can assure you they’ll be no love lost between these rivals as Seton Hall’s four seniors look to win at the Cintas Center for the first time in their careers. They can look no further than Macura’s performance today as he lifted his arms in victory on the Prudential Center floor.