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No. 16 Xavier pops Seton Hall’s NCAA bubble hopes 82-60

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This was a do or die game for the Seton Hall Pirates and their slim NCAA Tournament hopes, taking on a #16 ranked Xavier Musketeers team coming off a loss to Villanova on Tuesday. The Pirates, 1-3 in their previous four games were facing this tall task without starting guard Kadary Richmond who missed the game due to back spasms. Xavier landed the kill shot, crushing the Pirates 82-60 in front of a disappointed sellout crowd at Prudential Center in Newark Friday evening. Souley Boum led the Musketeers (21-8/13-5 Big East) with 23 points and Dre Davis came back from missing nearly four weeks from a sprained ankle to lead the Pirates (16-13/9-9 BE) with 13 points off the bench. 

The first half stuck with the same script as most of The Hall’s games in the second half of the Big East season, with the offense starting slowly for both teams with multiple extended scoring droughts. Femi Odukale had five of the Pirates first eight points despite a scoring drought of nearly four minutes for both teams. Xavier reeled off a 16-4 run over the next five and a half minutes to open up a 26-12 lead. Souley Boum had two three pointers during this stretch for the Musketeers before the Pirates finally showed a spark when Al-Amir Dawes threw an alley-oop to Tyrese Samuel which he threw down for a dunk to wake up the lethargic Prudential Center crowd. Adam Kunkel promptly came back down the court to hit a three pointer and quiet the crowd again. Freshman Jaquan Sanders came off the bench for the Pirates and hit two big shots from the corner before another Boum three pointer down the stretch and a jumper from Jerome Hunter put the Musketeers up 40-21 at halftime. 

In the second half, the Pirates jumped to a quick 8-0 burst in the first two and a half minutes keyed by a Jamir Harris three pointer and a layup by KC Ndefo to close the gap to 40-29 before an Xavier timeout. Two quick layups by Samuel and Odukale extended the run to 12-1 and closed the deficit to 41-33 with 16:46 left in the game. Boum responded with a three pointer to kick off a 12-0 Xavier run to take the lead right back up to 20 points. Every time the Pirates would show brief flashes of offensive competence and go on a run, the Musketeers immediately countered and knocked the Pirates right back down. A 10-0 run by the Pirates in the middle of the second half punctuated by a Tray Jackson three pointer was the last gasp to get the deficit back down to 13 at 57-44 before Xavier turned on the jets and never looked back, opening up a lead as big as 29 while the Pirates played like a beaten down team that looked like it had given up and had no fight left. 

Well, at least there was no fight left until a bizarre incident in the final seconds of the game. Souley Boum took a three point shot for Xavier with 22 seconds left and the game essentially over. Seton Hall coach Shaheen Holloway appeared to yell his displeasure in the direction of Xavier coach Sean Miller near mid-court. At the same time, Jaquan Sanders took issue with Boum’s showboating and rushed to mid court with 1.6 seconds left and shoved Boum right in front of the jawing coaches, and then players from both teams rushed in to break them up. KC Ndefo left the bench area to join the fray which was dispersed by the Pirates coaching staff. Xavier players pulled Boum out of the chaos and dragged him toward the locker room. Boum and Sanders were both assessed technical fouls and Ndefo was ejected from the game for leaving the bench area. 

In the postgame media session, Holloway led with an apology for the incident:

“I want to apologize for what happened at the end of the game. That should never happen, and as a head coach I take full responsibility for that. My guys got to do better, and I got to do better, and that will never happen again. I also want to apologize, I didn’t think any players deserved to be up here (at the press conference) today. No one did anything to come up here and get an interview.” Seton Hall Head Coach Shaheen Holloway apologizing for the skirmish at the end of the game

When asked if his team gave up, Holloway said “I don’t want to say yes, because I’ve never had a team give up, so I don’t want to say yes, I just want to say we got outplayed.” Holloway said of the fan support and sellout crowd, “I thought it was unbelievable, it was good to see the student section packed. Sorry that we couldn’t pull it out tonight, but I hope they come back on Tuesday and send the seniors off well, they deserve it.”

News and notes: 

  • Kadary Richmond was held out of the game after experiencing back spasms following an injury in the previous game against UConn. Shaheen Holloway said Richmond will be monitored with treatment for the next few days. 
  • Seton Hall is now 1-4 in their past five games and likely needs to make a deep run in the Big East Tournament, or to win that tournament in order to make the NCAA Tournament. 
  • Seton Hall’s next game is against Villanova at home on Tuesday at 8:30pm on FS1. This is the Pirates final home game so the Senior Night ceremonies honoring the graduating players and staff will begin prior to the game at 8:15. 
  • Xavier’s next game is on the road at Providence on Wednesday at 6:30pm on FS1.

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