Seton Hall defeats No. 15 UConn on Ndefo’s last-second layup

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NEWARK, N.J. – During St. Peter’s run to the Elite Eight last year, KC Ndefo gained a reputation as a tenacious rebounder and a hard-nosed defender who led the nation in blocks at 6-foot-7.

When Shaheen Holloway left St. Peter’s to coach his alma mater, Seton Hall, he brought Ndefo with him as a graduate transfer.

Fittingly, it was Ndefo who came away with a crucial rebound and winning put-back to give Holloway the biggest win of his first season as Pirates coach, as Seton Hall defeated No. 15 UConn 67-66 on Wednesday night.

“We’ve been seeing it every day since he got here,” Kadary Richmond said. “So it just becomes second nature to the rest of us that are in the locker room with him and in practice.”

Richmond had a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Ndefo had 14 points, including a last-second layup.

“I felt like I was doing a good job crashing the boards all game,” Ndefo said.

Ndefo grabbed his eighth rebound and had a follow-up layup with 1.6 seconds left. While he missed the ensuing free throw, Seton Hall (12-8, 5-4 Big East) held on to win after trailing by 17 in the first half.

“We’re starting to understand what I want. We’re starting to understand that if we defend and keep teams out of transition, we give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Holloway said.

UConn (15-5, 4-5 Big East) was without coach Dan Hurley due to COVID-19. The Huskies were trying to halt a two-loss skid, as Adama Sanogo scored 16 points and five rebounds, while Jordan Hawkins was an efficient 4-of-8 for 13 points to go along with six rebounds.

UConn jumped out to a 3-0 start and led 29-19 with just under five minutes left in the half. The Huskies would go on to lead by as many as 17 before the break, as Seton Hall trailed 40-26 after 20 minutes.

“We’re just mentally strong,” Tyrese Samuel said. “Being down 17, going into halftime, it’s like, ‘don’t worry, there’s another 20 minutes.”‘

Ndefo gave an emphatic slam of a miss from Samuel. Al-Amir Dawes then made a couple layups before his 3-pointer cut UConn’s lead to 48-40 early in the second half. When Ndefo had another dunk – this time on a fast break that Dawes assisted – UConn interim coach Luke Murray called a timeout with his team up 48-45 with 14:14 left.

“I thought I did a poor job coaching the guys in the second half, offensively in particular,” Murray said. “We talked about it at halftime. We knew that Seton Hall was gonna pick up the pressure in the second half, and we didn’t do a good job of handling it.”

COVID HITS COACH

Hurley and associate head coach Kimani Young were not on the sidelines after both tested positive for the coronavirus, the school announced early Wednesday. Neither made the trip to New Jersey on Tuesday. UConn assistant coaches Tom Moore and Murray, son of comedian Bill Murray, are in charge. Moore missed last week’s game at Marquette due to COVID.

Director of player development Mamadou Diarra and video and scouting coordinator Matthew Johnson each moved us a seat up on the bench.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Seen as a Final Four and National Championship contender just a few weeks ago, UConn has continued to tumble after falling nine spots in the latest Top 25 Poll.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: After ascending as high as No. 2 before Christmas, the Huskies have lost five of their last six.

Seton Hall: The Pirates have won four in a row. After some early season growing pains, Seton Hall appears to be figuring things out under Holloway.

UP NEXT

UConn: Hosts Butler on Sunday.

Seton Hall: Hosts No. 20 Marquette on Saturday.

Murray scores career-high 29, Iowa beats Seton Hall 83-67

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NEWARK, N.J. – Kris Murray tied a career-high with 29 points, Filip Rebraca added 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks and Iowa beat Seton Hall 83-67 on Wednesday night at the Gavitt Tipoff Games.

Rebraca blocked a shot at the halftime buzzer to keep Iowa ahead 34-22. The Hawkeyes shot just 33.3% from the field in the first half, but their defense held Seton Hall to 20% shooting with 11 turnovers.

Connor McCaffery sank a wide-open 3-pointer, off a nice pass from Ahron Ulis, to extend Iowa’s lead to 70-59. The Hawkeyes led by at least nine points the rest of the way.

Murray also grabbed 11 rebounds for his second career double-double. Tony Perkins had 18 points with five assists and McCaffery finished with 11 points for Iowa (3-0), which plays Omaha on Monday.

Dre Davis scored 13 points for Seton Hall (2-1). Kadary Richmond and Jamir Harris each added 11.

Shaheen Holloway leaves Saint Peter’s for Seton Hall

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Shaheen Holloway is leaving Saint Peter’s for Seton Hall just days after helping the little Jesuit school make history by becoming the first No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.

Seton Hall athletic director Bryan Felt announced the hiring of the 45-year-old early Wednesday evening. It really wasn’t a surprise.

Holloway played for the Pirates of the Big East Conference and his move to replace Kevin Willard has been a hot topic since the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Willard left last week for the head job at Maryland.

Holloway, whose Peacocks knocked off No. 2 seed Kentucky. No. 7 Murray State and No. 3 seed Purdue before falling to North Carolina, will get a substantial raise. Willard earned $2.4 million last season, about tenfold what Holloway got at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Confernece school in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Holloway, whose teams play a hard-nosed game trademarked by defense, will be introduced at a campus press conference on Thursday.

“Life has a way of coming full circle,” Holloway said in a statement. “This is certainly a full circle moment for my family and I. Seton Hall is near and dear to my heart; it’s where I became a man, where I met the love of my life, where I spent countless hours honing my crafts as a basketball player and a basketball coach. To say that I’m excited to get started as the head men’s basketball coach at Seton Hall University would be an understatement.”

Holloway led the Peacocks to a run of three consecutive top-three finishes in the MAAC, a first for the program since the school’s first three seasons in the conference in the early 1980s. They won the MAAC Tournament to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2011. The program was 64-57 under his lead, including 22-12 in 2021-22.

Prior to Saint Peter’s, Holloway helped build a foundation at Seton Hall that turned it into a program that competes for NCAA Tournament bids and Big East championships on a yearly basis. In eight seasons as associate head coach under Willard from 2010-18, the Pirates experienced a multitude of success both on and off the court.

Holloway also was on Willard’s staff at Iona, where they turned the Gaels’ program around. They transformed a 2-28 team in 2006-07 into a 21-win team in 2009-10.

Holloway was a four-year standout at Seton Hall from 1996-2000 and helped lead the team to the 2000 NCAA Sweet 16. He hit the winning layup in overtime to defeat Oregon in the first round.

The New York City holds the Pirates’ record with 681 career assists and was inducted into the Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.

Holloway becomes the first Seton Hall graduate to lead the men’s basketball program since 1953 graduate Richie Regan led the Pirates from 1960-70.

“I am incredibly excited to welcome Shaheen Holloway and his family home to Seton Hall,” athletic director Bryan Felt said. “Shaheen is a winner in every sense of the word, and he is not only an incredible coach, but also an incredible educator of young men. He works tirelessly to put his student-athletes in a position to succeed, and he makes them believe that they can achieve anything with hard work and determination. That is evidenced by his historic NCAA Tournament run this month.”

Willard recommended Holloway succeed him after the Pirates were beaten by TCU on March 18 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

All-Big East: Gillespie unanimous, Champagnie honored again

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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.

No. 22 Villanova edges short-handed No. 15 Seton Hall 73-67

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NEWARK, N.J. – Justin Moore hit a go-ahead jumper with 1:36 to play and No. 22 Villanova posted a tough 73-67 victory over short-handed but gutsy No. 15 Seton Hall on Saturday.

Collin Gillespie scored 21 points, Brandon Slater added 17 and Moore had 13 for the Wildcats (9-4, 2-1 Big East). Jermaine Samuels added 11 points and 11 rebounds for Villanova, which dominated the boards 42-28 with Seton Hall missing two key big men because of COVID-19.

Backup guard Bryce Aiken had 22 points to lead Seton Hall, which has lost the last two games playing with only eight players because of COVID-19 issues. Jared Rhoden added 13 and Jamir Harris had 12, all on 3-points, for Pirates (9-3, 0-2).

Seton Hall had three players foul out with Myles Cale picking up his fifth foul and joining Alexis Yetna and Tray Jackson on the bench with less than a second to play. Yetna had 10 points and eight rebounds.

The final five minutes took almost 15 minutes to play with all the timeouts and the free throws.

Villanova’s play on the offensive glass was the key. Moore’s go-ahead shot gave the Wildcats a 62-61 lead and it came after Gillespie missed and 3-pointer and Bryan Antoine got the rebound. After a Pirates miss, Slater made two free throws for a 64-61 edge after another offensive rebound. Another Gillespie free throw pushed the lead to five points.

Seton Hall got within two points twice in the final 10 seconds but Villanova held on for its fourth straight win over the Pirates.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: The Wildcats have a talented roster and have all the components. They can shoot, rebound and play defense. It’s a typical Jay Wright team build for a post-season run. The four losses is not a good number but they included losses to No. 1 Baylor, No. 3 Purdue and No. 5 UCLA. They also were missing a key player with guard Caleb Daniels, who was averaging almost 10 points and 4 rebounds. He was on the COVID-19 list.

Seton Hall: The Pirates probably are going to fall out of the Top 25 after two straight losses. While it may seem unfair playing shorthanded, the only key player they are missing statistically is junior forward Tyrese Samuel. He is averaging 10.8 points and 6.9 rebounds. Center Ike Obiagu doesn’t contribute big numbers but he is a force in the of the defense.

UP NEXT

Villanova: Returns home to play Creighton for the second time this season. The Bluejays won 79-59 on Dec. 17.

Seton Hall: At Butler on Tuesday.

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.