Myles Powell took a seat on the bench with his fourth foul, put his cheerleader hat on and had full confidence in his Seton Hall teammates – and they showed why.
Powell had 19 points, Sandro Mamukelashvili scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half and the No. 12 Pirates snapped a 17-game road losing streak to Villanova with a 70-64 victory over the No. 10 Wildcats on Saturday.
Quincy McKnight added 14 points for the Big East-leading Pirates (18-5, 10-1), who last won at Villanova on Feb. 26, 1994.
Powell knocked down a 3 from the top of the key to make it 46-42 with 10:18 left, but the Seton Hall star took a seat next to his coach due to foul trouble with 9:31 to play. Powell re-entered with 4:54 left and Seton Hall ahead by four.
“I felt like we were going to win the game,” Powell said. “I stood up and said this should be our best defensive group right here. I never lacked confidence. That’s the best part about this group. Just like they have confidence in me, I have confidence in them.”
Pirates coach Kevin Willard praised his senior guard.
“It just shows what type of player and person Myles Powell is,” Willard said. “The whole time he was calling plays, telling guys what to do. It shows the type of leadership he has.”
Saddiq Bey scored 22 points and Collin Gillespie added 12 for Villanova (17-6, 7-4), which has lost three in a row.
“They just played better than us; we didn’t play poorly,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We have to play better to beat one of the best teams in the country.”
The teams were meeting for the 118th time, but it was the first matchup when both were ranked in the AP Top 25.
The victory not only erased some ugly history for the Pirates, but it also further solidified their spot among the top teams in the country. Earlier Saturday, Seton Hall was projected as a No. 3 seed by the NCAA Tournament selection committee. The Pirates have made the NCAA Tournament the last four seasons but haven’t made it past the opening weekend.
“Last year we were fighting for our lives,” Willard said. “Now we’re being talked about as a 3 seed. That’s great. That’s where this program is. Our fans should be excited about that, (our players) should be excited about that. We just have to keep our head down and stay focused.”
The Pirates were focused on Saturday when Powell was out due to foul trouble, and they stayed that way when he returned.
Mamukelashvili twice followed his own miss before finishing off the glass for a 57-51 advantage with 4½ minutes left. The 6-foot-11 native of Tbilisi, Georgia, flexed his muscles heading back downcourt after a key basket in the contest.
“I feel like coach is always telling me to crash the boards,” Mamukelashvili said. “It felt good getting that rebound. I feel like it’s a mentality.”
The Pirates’ lead was still six when Bey drained a 3 from the right wing to cut it in half, 61-58, with 1:39 left. Powell then air-balled a 3 just before the shot clock went off and Bey missed on a drive before McKnight’s two free throws made it 63-58 with 49.1 seconds left. After a Gillespie miss, Shavar Reynolds Jr. clinched it with two free throws with 36.5 remaining.
Villanova, which was favored by 3 points, trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half when Powell’s 3 from the top of the key put the Pirates ahead 20-10 with 10:36 remaining. But the Wildcats took over from that point. They pulled even at 25 on Gillespie’s two free throws with 2:23 left before a Bey jumper made it 27-25.
Then, the sold-out crowd of 20,706 erupted at the Wells Fargo Center when Jermaine Samuels stripped Powell, leading to a fast-break dunk by Bey that made it 29-25. The half ended with the Wildcats up 31-27.
Seton Hall: The Pirates have seven regular-season games remaining before the Big East Tournament, where they will be seeking their fourth conference title. Seton Hall last won the Big East title in 2016 when its defeated the Wildcats in the conference title game. Villanova went on to win the national championship that season.
Villanova: The Wildcats also were a projected No. 3 seed in the NCAA bracket reveal. Villanova, winner of the 2016 and 2018 national championship, has made the NCAA Tournament in seven straight seasons and 14 of the last 15.
Seton Hall: Hosts No. 21 Creighton on Wednesday night.
Villanova: Hosts Marquette at their on-campus arena on Wednesday night.
Source: Associated Press – AARON BRACY