Seton Hall Pirates

Maryland hires Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard as head coach

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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Kevin Willard and Maryland both achieved a degree of success over the past decade.

Now they’re teaming up in the hope that bigger and better things are on the horizon.

Willard is taking over as Maryland’s head coach after a dozen seasons at Seton Hall. The Terrapins announced the hire three days after Seton Hall’s season ended with a loss to TCU in the NCAA Tournament. Willard took the Pirates to five of the last six NCAA tournaments, although they made the second round only once.

Maryland, meanwhile, has made the second round four times since 2015, but with only one Sweet 16 appearance. The Terrapins were in the market for a new coach after Mark Turgeon’s departure in early December. Assistant Danny Manning took over as interim coach, and the Terps went 15-17 for their first losing season since 1993.

“I have always admired the Maryland basketball program, and being named the new head coach of one of the biggest brands in college basketball is a tremendous honor,” Willard said in a statement. “Thank you to President (Darryll) Pines and (athletic director) Damon Evans for trusting me to re-energize this proud program as we look to galvanize our passionate fan base with a gritty, hard-working style of basketball. Having coached against Maryland several times and at XFINITY Center, I know how Terp fans feel about their team and understand their expectations.”

Those expectations are high. When Willard arrived at Seton Hall, the Pirates had missed the NCAAs four straight years. In that context, he brought the program to a higher level. Maryland, on the other hand, won a national title in 2002 under Gary Williams. That’s who Turgeon followed, and the results weren’t up to that standard, particularly in the NCAA Tournament.

So Willard moves from the Big East to the Big Ten after seven 20-win seasons with the Pirates.

“Kevin Willard was a proven winner in the Big East while at Seton Hall,” Williams said. “The intensity level of his teams reflect the passion that Kevin will bring to our team and the university.”

Maryland scheduled a news conference for Tuesday night.

“We are thrilled to welcome Kevin to the Terrapin family,” Evans said. “We are excited about the future of Maryland basketball with Kevin leading the way.”

Willard won 225 games at Seton Hall, surpassing P.J. Carlesimo earlier this season for second place on the school’s career list. The Pirates won the Big East Tournament in 2016 and a regular-season title in 2020. In that respect, Willard endured a similar fate to Turgeon – they arguably had their best teams at Seton Hall and Maryland in 2020, when the NCAA Tournament was called off because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Terps tied for first in the Big Ten that season.

After Seton Hall was eliminated from this year’s NCAA Tournament, Willard candidly said if he wasn’t back with the Pirates, he’d love for Shaheen Holloway to be there. Holloway, who played at Seton Hall, coached 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s into the Sweet 16 this year; the Peacocks face Purdue later this week.

Seton Hall said it would begin a search for Willard’s successor.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Kevin for 10 of his 12 years here at Seton Hall, and I want to thank him for his phenomenal leadership of our men’s basketball program and for helping our student-athletes become the best possible versions of themselves,” Seton Hall athletic director Bryan Felt said. “Kevin came in and immediately changed the culture of our program and built it into a perennial Big East championship and NCAA Tournament contender with student-athletes who succeed in the classroom and represent the university in a first-class manner.”

Before taking over the Seton Hall program, Willard coached Iona for three seasons. His father Ralph coached Western Kentucky, Pittsburgh and Holy Cross, winning 336 games and going to the NCAA Tournament six times.

All-Big East: Gillespie unanimous, Champagnie honored again

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Villanova guard Collin Gillespie was the only unanimous pick for the all-Big East team Sunday, and St. John’s forward Julian Champagnie joined him as a repeat selection.

Connecticut guard R.J. Cole and forward Adama Sanogo also were on the first team, along with Marquette forward Justin Lewis and Seton Hall swingman Jared Rhoden.

Gillespie, the co-Big East player of the year last season, is averaging 16.3 points per game to pace the 11th-ranked Wildcats. He leads the conference in 3-point shooting (43.1%) and free-throw percentage (91.5%).

Champagnie is averaging 18.9 points and 6.6 rebounds. He just missed winning the Big East scoring title for the second consecutive year, nipped by Lewis in the final game of the regular season.

Two players from regular-season champion Providence were included on the all-Big East second team: guard Jared Bynum and center Nate Watson. Joining them were DePaul guard Javon Freeman-Liberty, Creighton forward Ryan Hawkins and Villanova guard Justin Moore.

Receiving honorable mention were St. John’s point guard Posh Alexander, Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner, Marquette guard Darryl Morsell and Xavier center Jack Nunge.

The conference’s head coaches vote for the all-conference teams and are not allowed to pick their own players.

The league’s player of the year will come from the all-Big East first team. The winner will be announced Wednesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden before the Big East Tournament opener, when the conference also reveals its coach of the year, freshman of the year and scholar-athlete of the year.

Creighton had three players on the all-freshman team: guard Trey Alexander, forward Arthur Kaluma and point guard Ryan Nembhard, who was chosen Big East rookie of the week six times before a season-ending wrist injury late last month.

Nembhard was a unanimous selection to the all-freshman team, along with Georgetown guard Aminu Mohammed and Marquette guard Kam Jones. UConn guard Jordan Hawkins also made the squad.

Horchler carries No. 21 Providence over No. 15 Seton Hall

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PROVIDENCE, R.I.- Providence coach Ed Cooley isn’t about to get caught up in the national attention his team is receiving.

Noah Horchler scored 17 points with 13 rebounds, and Nate Watson added 14 points to carry No. 21 Providence to a 70-65 victory over short-handed, 15th-ranked Seton Hall on Wednesday night.

“I think our players are earning it. They deserve it. If you earn it, you deserve it,” Cooley said. “As a coach, you’re just looking forward to the next game. It may help you in some recruiting. That’s just someone’s opinion of what your team is.

“If we do what we’re supposed to do and win enough games, then they’ll be a number beside (us),” he said.

Watson, a 6-foot-10 center, became the 18th player in Providence history to reach 1,500 points.

Playing its first game since a victory over Rutgers on Dec. 12, Seton Hall had only eight players in uniform. Five were in COVID-19 protocols, but only one starter, 7-foot-2 center Ike Obiagu, was out.

“It was really different,” Seton Hall’s Myles Cale said of the small bench. “We were missing guys that you usually travel with and build that chemistry around. You’re just missing that feeling about the game because they definitely bring that energy. I wish they could have been there, but it’s just the times we’re living in.”

Jared Bynum also had 14 points for Providence (12-1, 2-0 Big East), which is off to its best start since opening 2015-16 by winning 14 of its first 15 games.

Alexis Yetna had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Pirates (9-2, 0-1). Bryce Aiken scored 11 points, and Jared Rhoden and Tray Jackson each had 10.

Providence led by nine points at halftime and pushed it to 40-27 on Al Durham’s steal and breakaway jam in the opening minute of the second half.

Seton Hall closed within 57-50 with just under six minutes left on Yetna’s put-back before Providence pushed it back to double digits.

Yetna’s layup cut it to 66-63 with 17.3 seconds left, but Durham hit two free throws.

Seeing their first action since beating then-No. 20 Connecticut on the road 11 days ago, the Friars rode the hot 3-point shooting of Horchler to a 36-27 halftime edge.

“The virus is spiking and changing sports every day,” Cooley said. “I’m just glad we were able to play. We beat an undermanned, very talented team.”

Neither team held more than a one-possession lead until Horchler connected from beyond the arc on three straight possessions in just under two minutes during a 15-0 spree that pushed Providence ahead 34-22.

“That’s something we practice every day – step-in 3s,” Bynum said.

BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: The Pirates’ season had been derailed by COVID-19 before Wednesday, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can regain the form that led to them climbing in the AP Top 25 before three games were canceled. … The school announced before the game that reserve guard Jahari Long had surgery on his right knee on Dec. 20 and will miss the remainder of the season.

Providence: If experience means anything, the Friars could be in for a strong season. They have a ton of it and some well-balanced scoring, too. Their starting lineup consists of four graduate students and a senior. Three of the starters are averaging double figures and a fourth came in at 9.9 points per game.

“We’ve got a veteran group, you demand excellence, you hold them accountable,” Cooley said. “When you’ve got an older group, you expect to win. You come into the game and give the guys a game plan, which they follow and you expect to win. You’re expecting to win when you have an older group like this.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Despite having an extremely limited bench on Wednesday, Seton Hall will likely drop a bit in next week’s poll unless the Pirates have a solid showing in their conference home opener on Saturday. Providence almost certainly will climb barring a bad showing over the weekend.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: Hosts No. 21 Villanova on New Year’s Day.

Providence: At DePaul on New Year’s Day.

Seton Hall promotes Billmeirer, adds Copeland to hoops staff

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — Grant Billmeier was promoted to associate head coach and Donald Copeland has been named an assistant basketball coach at Seton Hall.

Billmeier, a former Pirates player, has been on coach Kevin Willard’s staff for 10 of 11 seasons, including the last six as an assistant coach. The Pirates won Big East Conference championships in 2016 and 2020 and earned four straight NCAA Tournament berth from 2016-19. A fifth straight bid in 2020 was upended by the pandemic.

Copeland, a Jersey City native who helped the Pirates reach two NCAA Tournaments, is returning to his alma mater. He spent the last four seasons as an assistant at Wagner College.

Billmeier and Copeland were teammates from 2003-06.

“Grant has been an integral member of our staff and the success we have been able to achieve here at Seton Hall,” Willard said. “The passion and energy he brings to work every single day is infectious, and he works very hard to ensure that our players get better on the court, in the classroom and in life.

Billmeier has been instrumental in developing the Pirates’ big men, notably Angel Delgado, Romaro Gill and Sandro Mamukelashvili, who was one of three co-winner of the conference’s player of the year award this past season.

Copeland spent six seasons at Wagner, the first two as graduate manager. Copeland played professionally both overseas and in Puerto Rico before becoming a coach.

DePaul, St. Bonaventure pause activities

Kaiti Sullivan/Indianapolis Star
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DePaul men’s basketball is pausing all team activities following positive COVID-19 test results, and the first three games of the season are being canceled.

The test results were in the team’s Tier 1 group, which includes athletes, athletic trainers, physical therapists, medical staff, equipment staff and officials. For reasons of medical privacy, the school will not identify anybody who tests positive.

Coach Dave Leitao said the team will return to practice and competition after completing all mandated protocols and procedures.

DePaul and Big East foes Seton Hall, Marquette, and UConn have been forced to pause activities because of positive COVID-19 test results.

The cancellations include games scheduled for Nov. 25, Nov. 28 and Dec. 1.

St. Bonaventure has also paused men’s basketball following a positive COVID-19 test result within the team’s Tier 1 personnel.

The program was notified of a positive result Thursday as part of regular surveillance testing. Tier 1 personnel, which include athletes, coaches, team managers and support staff, are to be tested for COVID-19 three times per week.

The pause means St. Bonaventure won’t play in the Mohegan Sun “Bubbleville” games in Connecticut.

No. 11 Creighton claims share of Big East title with win over No. 8 Seton Hall

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OMAHA, Neb. — Marcus Zegarowski made all five of his 3-pointers and finished with 23 points to lead No. 11 Creighton to a share of the Big East Conference regular-season title with a 77-60 victory over No. 8 Seton Hall on Saturday.

The Bluejays (24-7, 13-5) claimed all or part of their first conference title since winning the Missouri Valley outright in 2012-13. They joined the Big East the next season.

Creighton has won 11 of its last 13 games and, because it swept the season series against the Pirates, will be the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament in New York next week.

The Bluejays finished the game on a 21-6 run, with the sellout crowd of more than 18,000 at CHI Health Center growing louder as the clock wound down. Students stormed the court after the final buzzer, and a Big East banner was unfurled from the rafters moments later.

Seton Hall (21-9, 13-5) lost its last two games and will be the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. Villanova also won a share of the regular-season title and is the No. 2 seed.

RELATEDBubble Watch | Bracketology | Conference Tournaments

Denzel Mahoney came off the bench to score 16 points for the Bluejays, and Ty-Shon Alexander had 15 points along with playing a superb defensive game against Seton Hall star Myles Powell.

Powell and Quincy McKnight each scored 15 points for the Pirates and Jared Rhoden added 12.

Seton Hall controlled the pace of the game against the Big East’s highest-scoring team, but the Bluejays were able to pull away late.

Billed by local media as the biggest home game in Creighton program history, fans showed up early and the student section was vocal, chanting “Let’s Go Jays” as the Bluejays ran onto the court before pregame introductions.

Alexander got the crowd on its feet right away, stealing the ball from Powell on the opening possession and converting a fast-break pass from Damien Jefferson into an easy layin. Then, after Powell appeared to shed Alexander on a ball screen, Alexander caught him from behind to block his layup try.

The half ended tied 32-all, and it was close until the Bluejays began taking control midway through the second half. Zegarowski drove the length of the court and snaked his way through the lane for a finger-roll layin to break a 50-50 tie, and the Bluejays never surrendered the lead.

Tension spilled over late when Jefferson and Sandro Mamukelashvili were chest to chest in the final 2 minutes. Mamukelashvili tried to shove Jefferson, Creighton coach Greg McDermott sprinted across the bench to calm matters and the players were given double technicals.

BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: The Pirates lost back-to-back games for only the second time this season, and Powell, averaging 27 points in road games, was never able to take control offensively.

Creighton: The Bluejays ride momentum of the Big East title into the conference tournament after finishing 17-1 at home and improving to 7-2 against Top 25 opponents.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall plays in the Big East Tournament on Thursday.

Creighton plays in the Big East Tournament on Thursday.