Seton Hall heads home early in heartbreaking Big East Tournament loss

Seton Hall Pirates
Seton Hall guard Femi Odukale with the ball during the first half of the Pirates Big East Tournament opening game against DePaul.
amNewYork/Kyle Sweeting

The loss is sure to haunt the dreams of the Seton Hall Pirates after they were eliminated from the Big East Tournament on Day 1 by the DePaul Blue Demons. 

It was a mistake of epic proportion by KC Nedefo that allowed Umoja Gibson to go to the foul line for three free throws with three seconds that put DePaul ahead by one. Then a massive block by Nick Ongenda kept the Pirates from scoring the buzzer-beater and gave DePaul the 66-65 upset victory over Seton Hall.  

The celebration took a few moments after the officials originally ruled the block a goaltend, but the rules allowed for the refs to review the call in the final two minutes and it was then called a clean block. It was the end of a bad sequence for the Pirates, who had a five-point lead in the final minute of the game. 

“We had a chance to ice the game. We just had two careless turnovers at the end,” Seton Hall head coach Shaheen Halloway said. And that’s something that we work on all the time too. That’s why I’m really upset because now we know we gotta stick to the basketball and be strong with it, and just couldn’t do it tonight.”

Jalen Terry cut it down to two with 42 seconds left, but Seton Hall built it back up to four with a pair of Jamir Harris free throws with 17 seconds left on the clock. A Terry layup pulled DePaul back to within two and then Ndefo fouled Gibson as he was going for a three with three seconds left. 

Seton Hall had entered Wednesday’s game tied for the best first-round record in the Big East Tournament at 6-2 since the conference was reconfigured in 2013-14. The Pirates haven’t won the conference tournament since 2016. 

“Very heartbreaking. Not just for me, just seeing my seniors and grad seniors, knowing I can’t play with them any longer. Or just be around them and it just hurts me that they didn’t go out with the final bang,” Femi Odukale said.

Tyrese Samuel finished the game with a team-leading 16 points for the Pirates, along with 12 rebounds and a pair of steals. Ndefo had 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and a pair of threes, while Al-Amire Dawes added 12 and Harris put up 10. 

Seton Hall shot 25-for-50 from the field and 4-for-15 from beyond the arc. 

DePaul opened up the game on a 5-1 run before the Pirates closed the gap and used a 9-5 to pull the game even at 10 with 12:21 left on the clock in the first half. The Big East foes continued to trade baskets early on as Johnson made a pull-up three to give the Blue Demons a lead only to see Harris knock down a three of his own to even the score back up on the next possession. 

A three from KC Ndefo put the Pirates ahead 21-20 with 8:33 left in the half and another three a little more than three minutes later gave Seton Hall a four-point lead. However, DePaul erased the deficit, cutting the Pirates’ lead to just one off a three-pointer from Umija Gibson and pulling ahead 26-25 off a pull-up jumper from Johnson. 

Seton Hall
KC Ndefo watches a shot in the first half of the Seton Hall Pirates’ Big East Tournament opener.amNewYork/Kyle Sweeting

A three from Jalen Terry with 18 seconds left in the half sent the Blue Demons to the locker room with a 32-28 lead. 

Seton Hall erased the six-point hole they found themselves in early in the second half with a 6-1 run to take a 36-35 lead with 15:03 left in the game. Ndefo’s layup with 14:07 on the clock put the Pirates up by three followed by an alley-oop dunk by Samuel moments later and a Odukale driving layup had Seton Hall ahead 42-37. 

But the Blue Demons never fully faded away and they kept the Pirates on their toes. Nick Ongenda cut the lead to three with 5:52 left in the game when he completed the three-point play with a layup and knocked down the ensuing free throw.

A Javan Johnson three moments later pulled the Blue Demons within two and Da’sean Nelson cut the lead to just one with 3:09 left. Ndefo put Seton Hall back up by three with a quick layup, but Nelson’s pullup jumper made it a one-point game once again. 

For more NCAA basketball coverage, visit amNY Sports