Seton Hall earns must-win victory over Marquette as gamble pays off

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This wasn’t about style points. Or the eye test. Or impressing the selection committee.

Seton Hall had to find a way to win — by any means possible — to avoid the kind of disastrous loss that can ruin a team’s Selection Sunday.

It had to navigate without its top two point guards for large portions of this game. It had to find enough points on a day Sandro Mamukelashvili too often threw the ball away.

It had to survive and advance — the March moniker for the NCAA Tournament that was so apt for the Pirates on Sunday afternoon.

And so Kevin Willard rolled the dice. His team’s lead was down to four. He reinserted trustworthy senior Shavar Reynolds with 7:21 remaining despite him having four fouls.

Reynolds wouldn’t be whistled for his fifth. He set up consecutive easy baskets, hit a pair of jumpers himself and sank two clutch free throws, keying an ugly 57-51 victory over fast-fading Marquette at Prudential Center.

Seton Hall’s third straight win solidified its third-place position in the Big East, as difficult as it was at times. With Bryce Aiken (ankle) out and Reynolds in foul trouble, the Pirates struggled immensely on offense. Freshman Jahari Long had four turnovers in 18 minutes. Mamukelashvili committed six turnovers and shot just 4 of 12. Jared Rhoden led Seton Hall with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists, coming up big when others around him couldn’t find it.

The Pirates’ defense, and Marquette’s inability to hit open shots, was the difference. The Golden Eagles were 3 of 25 from 3-point range and shot 30 percent from the field in losing their third straight game.

The best that could be said about the first half for Seton Hall was it held a lead. It was up six points, despite so much going wrong.

Despite 10 turnovers. Despite hitting just one 3-pointer and getting to the free throw-line only four times. Despite the absence of Aiken and uneven play at both ends of the floor.

The Pirates were fortunate reeling Marquette was their opponent. The Golden Eagles couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean — they shot 26 percent from the field and 2 of 13 from 3-point range despite good looks — and their star freshman Dawson Garcia was a no-show, without a point in 16 minutes.

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