It had been 27 long days since the Villanova men's basketball team suited up for their previous game at Marquette on Dec. 23. After a Jay Wright positive COVID test on Dec. 26. put in the program in an initial 10 day quarantine, the Wildcats would have to wait again after multiple players tested positive when they returned to practice on the 11th day.
Tuesday night the #3 ranked Wildcats returned to action on their home floor facing an all too familiar opponent in the Seton Hall Pirates. The layoff seemed to be non existent on the offensive side for Jay Wright's ball club as Villanova came out firing from behind the arc. The Wildcats held a small lead the majority of the night while Seton Hall, like previous matchups with Nova, held their own.
Seniors Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels led the way for Villanova. Gillespie scored 20 points while going 8 of 8 from the free throw line and Samuels contributed 20 points along with 9 rebounds. For the Pirates their senior star, Sandro Mamukelashvili led all scorers with 23 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists.
The story of this game came down to the final 2:10. As Seton Hall was slowly but surely creeping their way back to tie the game up, Villanova was called for two crucial offensive fouls on Justin Moore and Collin Gillespie on back to back possessions. Jay Wright was absolutely furious and received a warning after the second one. The very next offensive play for Nova, Gillespie does virtually the same exact play extending out his arm and this time the call went against Seton Hall resulting in 2 free throws for Nova.
Seton Hall would tie the game at 74-74 with 52.9 after a beautiful play from Mamu setting up Takal Molson for an easy layup. The Pirates would get the ball back after a Gillespie missed three pointer and hold for the final shot.
I mean this was ridiculous. First of all there's four guys going for this ball. Its practically a pin ball machine. Second of all it's a loose ball and no one makes any serious contact with each other because the players all know the clock is about to run out. Third of all, even if there was a slight bump how can you call it with 0.9 seconds left of a tie game in a rivalry matchup. Let the kids play overtime.
Luckily for the Pirates, the officials took a look at the clock during the foul and added an extra second. Cole Swider missed the first free throw but drilled the second to give Nova the one point lead. One final miracle Christian Laetnner type of play was going to be needed and oh how close Seton Hall came.
The Hail Mary pass from Molson goes right through Mamu's hand on what would have been an easy turnaround layup and game winner. And Sandro knew it too right away. In the end, if you are a Pirate fan, you have to be proud of the way Seton Hall fought against the #3 team in the country on the road.
One last quick note, New Jersey native Bryce Aiken made his return for the Pirates after missing the DePaul game due to an ankle injury he suffered at Creighton. Aiken has yet to produce for Seton Hall like he was so accustom to in his 3.5 years at Harvard. The 2 time first team All-Ivy League who averaged 22.2 ppg in his Junior year is now only scoring 2.9 ppg and has played sparingly behind PG Shavar Reynolds.