NEW YORK - Seton Hall lost both of its regular season games to Butler in rather convincing fashion, including a regular season-ending 71-54 blowout at Hinkle Fieldhouse. In the first game of the Big East tournament, the Pirates got their revenge - but just barely.
Thanks to 14 points and 12 rebounds from Eugene Teague, No. 8 seed Seton Hall had just enough to hold off a furious second-half rally by the No. 9 seed Bulldogs, and secure a 51-50 win. The Pirates will face No. 1 seed Villanova in Thursday's first quarterfinal game, starting at 12 p.m.
"We looked back [at the previous Butler game] and saw our mistakes and said, look, if we correct these, we'll have a pretty good chance," Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. "If you can't get ready for the Big East tournament, there's something wrong with you."
The game was as ugly as the final score would indicate - especially the first half, which Wildcats coach Jay Wright watched from courtside. The two teams combined to shoot 20-for-57 from the field in the opening 20 minutes, including a combined 4-of-21 from three-point range. Seton Hall took a 23-22 lead into the locker room.
The Pirates (16-16, 6-12 Big East) led by as many as 12 points midway through the second half. Butler refused to go away, though, whittling the deficit to two points with 4:35 to go thanks to an Alex Barlow three-pointer and a layup off a turnover by Kameron Woods.
The Pirates' frontcourt had been their biggest strength all game, as Teague and Patrik Auda pounded the ball inside time after time. Auda fouled out with 3:56 to go, though, and Bulldogs forward Khyle Marshall had a chance to tie the game at the free throw line. But he missed both free throws.
It seemed that might be a moment for momentum to swing back in Seton Hall's favor. Butler simply refused to wilt defensively, though. Eventually, the offense followed suit. With 47.4 seconds to go, Kellen Dunham soared through the lane for a dunk that brought the Bulldogs within 51-50.
Seton Hall missed a three-point attempt on the ensuing possession, and Butler got the rebound with 12 seconds left. That seemed plenty of time to score a winning basket, but Dunham lost the handle under the basket. Fuquan Edwin, who earlier Wednesday was named the Big East's Defensive Player of hte Year, snatched the ball away.
"I tried to read [Dunham], and I knew he was running into trouble [with] two of my guys right there stepping up on him," Edwin said. "I just anticipated the pass, and I came up with it."
Butler's Erik Fromm fouled Brandon Mobley with just under five seconds left, and Mobley missed the front end of a one-and-one. Marshall grabbed the rebound and immediately called timeout. Barlow had a look from just past halfcourt at the buzzer, but it was off the mark.
Seton Hall was led in scoring by Teague's 14 points. Edwin scored 10 points and recorded three blocks, three rebounds and three assists. Brian Oliver added 10 points of his own and pulled down nine boards.
Teague's performance was all the more noteworthy because, according to Willard, he had been fighting the flu since Saturday. The Vineland, N.J. native and Living Faith Christian Academy product had already overcome a concussion earlier in the season that forced him to miss four games in December and January.
"I wasn't even sure he was going to be able to play, as badly as he looked yesterday," Willard said of Teague. "He's probably finally getting over the concussion, and more importantly, the Krispy Kreme donuts he was eating while he was out."
Butler was led by Marshall, the game's high scorer, with 22 points and eight rebounds. It was the senior's final game of his college career, as the Bulldogs (14-17, 4-14) aren't likely to play in a postseason tournament.
"It hit me pretty hard, knowing that this could possibly be my last game in a Butler uniform," he said. "Once the [three-point attempt at the buzzer] didn't go in, I was just in disbelief."
The Bulldogs also made a bit of Madison Square Garden history, as their famous mascot became the first live animal mascot to ever be part of a sporting event in Manhattan's famous arena.
There won't be an encore performance for Blue III, though. He's headed back to Indianapolis, and Seton Hall is headed to a lunch date Thursday with the Big East's regular-season champion.