NEWARK, N.J. — Jalen Brunson was going through a rare poor shooting night through most of Villanova’s game against Seton Hall on Wednesday, but he sank the shots when they counted.
Brunson, who started 1-of-9 from the floor, scored a pair of key baskets in overtime as the fourth-ranked Wildcats barely escaped with a 69-68 victory over Seton Hall at the Prudential Center.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges gave the Wildcats (26-4, 13-4) the early advantage in overtime, 60-55, with 3:25 to play. Brunson then hit a leaner in the lane and a jumper from the key and when Donte DiVincenzo hit a pair of free throws, the Wildcats had a seemingly safe 66-59 lead with 25.5 seconds left.
But Seton Hall’s Eron Gordon followed with a three-pointer and Villanova was whistled for a five-second violation when it failed to execute an inbounds pass. Miles Powell sank a layup and it was a two-point game, 66-64, with 14.4 seconds to play.
After Omari Spellman made one of two free throws, Khadeen Carrington hit a driving dunk to make it a one-point game. But an apparent steal by the Pirates on an inbounds pass was called a foul on Gordon and Brunson hit two free throws with 5.9 seconds left.
The Wildcats deliberately fouled as the Pirates came upcourt and Carrington closed the scoring with two free throws, although he did try to miss the second one.
“That’s the sign of a great player, he’s not afraid to fail,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Brunson. “He loves having the pressure on him and on his shoulders. That’s what the great ones do. That was vintage Jalen Brunson, just no fear of failure.”
Bridges led the Cats with 23 points and Brunson added 14 — 12 in the final four minutes of regulation and overtime. Carrington led the Pirates (20-10, 9-8) with 23.
“That was just a Big East rock fight, man,” Wright said. “Nobody could make a shot, some good, tough defense. I would rather not have played in a game like that but we needed to play in a game like that, where we just couldn’t make shots and our defense kept us in it.”
Villanova shot just 36 percent from the field but made four of eight shots in overtime. Seton Hall shot 38.5 percent for the game.
Villanova had a 52-49 lead after Bridges stole the ball at midcourt and sped in for a layup with 46 seconds remaining in regulation. Seton Hall drew to within one when Carrington converted a pair of free throws at the 36.1-second mark.
On the Wildcats’ next possession, Brunson, who had an off-night shooting, went to the line for a one-and-one with 23.6 seconds remaining but missed the front end. Seton Hall called timeout and sent Carrington driving to the basket, where he was fouled by Bridges.
Carrington missed the first free throw and made the second to tie the game. The Wildcats had the last shot for the win but Brunson was double-teamed and DiVincenzo shot an off-balance three at the buzzer that had no chance.
The Wildcats held a 36-25 lead after freshman Collin Gillespie knocked down a three-pointer with 12:47 to play but Seton Hall responded with a 14-2 run sparked by eight points from Myles Powell, who started the game 1-for-11.
Carrington hit a layup and an elbow jumper to give the Pirates a 39-38 lead with 7:44 to play, their first lead since the 18:09 mark of the first half. But the Wildcats responded with back-to-back three-point baskets by DiVincenzo and Bridges to regain the lead 44-39 with just over six minutes left.
The visitors couldn’t sustain their offense, however, and the Pirates went on another run, getting three straight baskets from Michael Nzei to take a 49-48 lead with 1:20 to play. But Brunson, who was only 1 for his first 9 from the field, made a jumper as ‘Nova regained the advantage.
The Wildcats shot just 32.3 percent in the first half, and sank only 3 of 15 tries from three-point territory, but they led by 24-18. The Pirates shot just 20.7 percent in the period, missing their final 14 attempts from the field. Starting guards Carrington and Powell combined to go 3 for 17.