Wow! What an amazing action-packed Big East Basketball season it’s been. Now it is down to the last regular season game for the Seton Hall Pirates and the opponent couldn’t any bigger, Villanova. The Villanova Wildcats have always been a strong rival to the Pirates and this year that is no exception. To add to the excitement of this already hyped game is the fact its senior night for Michael Nzei.
Nzei has been with the program for five seasons earning himself a great name in the sports world with a strong record to add as well. He has accumulated 2564 minutes of gameplay, he has played 134 games and started 63 of those games. On the court, he has had a career average of .613% in FG and has rebounded 534 balls. This loss will hit hard to Kevin Willard and the entire Pirate’s athletics program.
The lone senior stepped out on to the court before the game started surrounded by his teammates that expressed a cluster of emotions from sadness to joy. Many of the players said, “It was an honor and privilege to play alongside Nzei.” “A brother on and off the court”, this was the relationship Nzei had. He walked up to head coach Kevin Willard who embraced his longtime player with a warming hug. Nzei was presented with a frame with his jersey placed inside. Overjoyed, he raised it up high for all the fans to see, many dedicated fans held signs to celebrate the senior’s career. It was a beautiful sight to behold.
The celebrations were slowing down as the mood in the Prudential Center switched from a hard goodbye to an overdrive of determination. The players of Seton Hall gathered on the far side of the court to mentally prepare for the last game of the regular season. This game was a deciding factor for where the Pirates are going to be placed in next weeks Big East Tournament. Displaying 110% energy as they got set on the court Seton Hall was ready to not play but win.
Villanova has been a well-seasoned team winning multiple Big East Championships. The Wildcats were ready to claim another win in their record books. With the ball in the air, the roar of 16,000 fans and the determination in the eyes of each player, coach, and official, the game began.
The ball landed into the hands of Michael Nzei who went in for a good layup but was blocked out. The ball was rebounded by Jermaine Samuels who passed the ball onto Eric Paschall who also missed the layup at the net. Sandro Mamukelaashvili rebounded but a foul was called on Collin Gillespie giving the ball directly to the Hall. Myles Cale with the ball in his possession gave a good attempt to the hoop but being a fraction off the ball was rebounded by teammate Quincy Mcknight who handed it off to Myles Powell for a signature 3Pt basket.
The first to put points on the board Seton Hall was filled with nothing but positive momentum that pushed the team to make another successful shot at the net. Powell was able to recover the ball after a missed 3Pt basket by Nova’s Joe Cremo that was then passed to Sandro for the layup. Villanova finally put points up after four minutes of game time when Samuels took the ball through the Hall defense for a good layup.
The layup caused a foul on Cremo giving Nzei the opportunity to make two successful free throws. Phil Booth came out with a solid 3Pt basket for Nova but Seton Hall answered the call with a great 3Pt basket to follow by Myles Cale. Samuels came in with another 3Pt basket at 15:25 to make the score 10-8 with Seton Hall still in the lead.
Within five more minutes of game action, the Pirates had increased their lead to 22-15. The Hall kept pushing faster and faster against Nova reading their moves like they had a manual on how they were going to play. The first half ended with Seton Hall never dropping the lead and being in the lead by 11Pts 39-28.
The Pirates kept matching every shot taken by the Wildcats. Each move was like an explosion of thunder as the ball swooshed through the net the fans roared to life. Myles Powell exploded during the second half with a roar of his own to the Seton Hall fan section. The game coming to a close the Pirates remained focused making precision shots at the hoop.
79-75 was the final score on the board as the cheerleaders rushed with excitement to celebrate the first time in four years Seton Hall had taken down the #1 Villanova Wildcats. The Pirates were erupting with excitement as they came together for their ceremonial victory song. Each player could be seen dancing, cheering, meeting fans, and smiling with pride in their victory.
This victory placed the Hall in 3rd place for the Big East Tournament where they will face off against Georgetown in the first round.