by Josh Adams
The Wofford Terriers were every bit as good as advertised going into tonight’s game.
As Seton Hall gallantly fought their way back into the game and briefly took the lead into the second half, the Terriers turned on a switch with a double digit scoring run late in the last stanza and finished off a gallant Pirates team by the score of 84-68. Wofford will play Kentucky in the round of 32 on Sunday.
The first half had the Terriers catch the Pirates a little flat-footed with Wofford opening up a fifteen point lead midway through the first stanza as Fletcher Magee and Nathan Hoover hit multiple three pointers and Cameron Jackson was able to get some easy layups as the Terriers shooting extended the Pirates defense. Wofford, winners of 20 straight games coming into the NCAA Tournament looked like they were about to run away with the contest but Seton Hall’s star player, Myles Powell, started to make his presence known. Powell scored seven quick points at the five minute mark of the half to cut the Terriers lead to nine. The half ended with the Terriers up by ten, 40-30.
It’s been a calling-card for this year’s Seton Hall team to kick their intensity up to another level in the second half and tonight’s game was no different. The Pirates began to chip away the Terriers lead as the half progressed. Then, like Superman out of a phone booth, Powell’s talent took over the game. The All-Big East guard scored 12 straight points to eliminate the Wofford lead and put the Pirates up by one with eleven minutes left at the half. The fans were rejoicing, twitter was exploding and the Pirates looked for a brief moment like they were in the drivers seat into the round of 32. The two teams then traded baskets for the next five minutes and it looked like this game would go down to the wire.
Then, like a flash of lightning it was over. The Terriers unloaded hay-makers on the Seton Hall defense. Hoover hit consecutive three pointers followed by a Magee three pointer that bolstered the Wofford lead back up to double digits. The Terriers poured it on as the Pirates just couldn’t buy a bucket in the last four minutes of the game. Wofford went on a 17-0 run before a Romaro Gil dunk with 27 seconds left finally budged the numbers on the Pirates side of the scoreboard. The season ended for the Pirates as their lone senior, Mike Nzei, took his final bows wearing the Pirate blue and white.
Powell and his Seton Hall teammates reflected on Wofford and what this season meant to them after the game.
“We fought, that’s been the story of our year. We just came up short.” said Powell “They (Wofford) can just shoot the hell out of the ball. We took the lead and I just remember them catching fire.”
“You give those guys an inch of space on defense and the ball is going through the hoop. It’s ridiculous,”, said Seton Hall point guard Quincy McKnight, “Fletcher and those guys, you got to give it to them. They are great shooters.”
Magee became the NCAA all-time leader in three pointers made in a career in tonight’s game. “I feel like we showed tonight that we’re not just a one dimensional shooting team”, said Magee after the game. He thought that his toe was on the line with his record setting three pointer but was humble about becoming the best three point shooter in NCAA history. “It’s something that maybe when I grow old, I’ll dwell on it a little more.”, said Magee, “I just wanted to put it behind me once I hit it but it was definitely a special moment.”
The season was a memorable one for an overachieving Pirates team that was picked to finish ninth in the Big East Conference in the preseason coaches poll. With four starters returning, expectations will be high and a Top 25 preseason ranking is a possibility going into the 2019-20 season. It was a special year in Seton Hall basketball history. The team won over skeptics early and the fans embraced the identity of a team that had heart and never forgot that they were overlooked as the season began. Powell was the heart and soul of the team but it was players like McKnight who embraced the Pirates way and their was no better role model than Nzei, a student-athlete who should be on the cover of the NCAA media guide as the best example of a player who took his scholarship and used it to get himself an education, became a leader of his team by example and is sure to have a successful career in whatever field he chooses when he graduates.
In the locker room after the game Powell was asked what he remembered the most about tonight’s game.
” You see out fans, they’ve been with us throughout the entire year. Even when we were at our lowest they were still cheering us on.”, said Powell, “The crowd that we had behind us. We just want to say thank you to everyone.”
Thank you as well Myles. See you and the guys next preseason media day. I bet you won’t be picked ninth again.
Quotes from our Carolina’s Branch reporter Justin Mathis (@J_Math23) who is covering the Jacksonville Regional for NCAAHoopsDigest.com