The Big East matchup between Butler and Seton Hall became a fantastic game; let’s remember what happened.
This past NCAA Basketball season certainly didn’t end well, as the national pandemic caused the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament and many conference tournaments as well. Long before then, we did have quite a number of exciting games and matchups and it’s still worth taking a look at many of these. Our top 40 games of the 2019-20 season continues with a late-season game that certainly meets the mark.
16. #16 Seton Hall 74, #21 Butler 72
February 19, 2020, Prudential Center in Newark, NJ
Even without postseason play, the college basketball season delivered big, especially in some of the tight conference races down the stretch. Even though Villanova has seemingly dominated the league in recent years, the Big East has been one of the most exciting conferences in the country. Two of those non-Villanova teams certainly put on a show as they met up back in February.
Butler had gotten their season off to a hot start, running their record to 15-1 and landing as high as #5 in the rankings. Seniors Kamar Baldwin and Sean McDermott were playing great basketball, even if the Bulldogs began to slip as conference play ramped up. They traveled to New Jersey fresh off a rough home loss against Georgetown, though they were just two weeks removed from a big win against Villanova.
Seton Hall was getting some otherworldly play from Myles Powell, but themselves needed a bounce-back effort. The Pirates were sitting at 10-3 in the Big East, but had just lost back-to-back games. Seton Hall was very much still in the race to win the Big East title, but a home date with Butler represented a great chance to get back on track.
Early on, both offenses were operating well, trading baskets back and forth in the early going. Butler pulled ahead with an early 6-point lead, punctuated by Baldwin’s first basket of the game. A few minutes later, a 3-pointer from McDermott extended the lead to double digits just eight minutes in.
Myles Powell did everything he could to keep Seton Hall in this game, even if they couldn’t quite catch Butler in the first half. The lead was back up to eight just before halftime, though a pair of free throws from Romaro Gill made this game 34-28 at the half. Seton Hall had trailed nearly all of the first half but they were still very much within striking distance.
Seton Hall made the half’s first four points, but still couldn’t pull over the top. A few minutes later, they got to within a single point on a Quincy McKnight 3-pointer, while Powell’s jumper a few moments later gave them their first lead since the game’s opening minute. The Pirates would extend the lead on a long-range shot from Myles Cale a minute later, but Butler had an answer as well.
The two teams went back and forth as eight minutes remained, trading the lead back and forth. Sandro Mamukelashvili hit a 3-pointer, Aaron Thompson hit a few shots for the Butler, and this game was looking like it would live up to the billing. The teams were later tied at 55, 57, and 61 as we hit the stretch run, with neither team able to pull ahead by more than a few points.
McKnight’s next 3-pointer gave Seton Hall the lead back with under two minutes left, and they’d extend it as high as 5 just moments later. Butler needed a response and they got one. Desperately needing points in the final minutes, they hit three straight 3-pointers, one from Jordan Tucker and the last two from McDermott, all while McKnight went 4 for 4 from the charity stripe.
McDermott’s second 3-pointer tied the game at 72 with 12 seconds left, but there was still time. On the Pirates’ ensuing possession, Mamukelashvili became the hero, as his jumper at the buzzer gave the Pirates the dramatic, last-second victory. Butler was left stunned after their last minute heorics, with the Pirates snapping that losing streak.
Baldwin’s 20 points led all scorers, but it wasn’t enough for the Bulldogs. They hit those big 3-pointers late, but only shot 33% from long range, and needed a little more offense in the earlier game to protect that first half lead. Mamukelashvili played hero with his 15 points, while McKnight added 18 and typical hero Powell had 16 points and five assists. Seton Hall made 91% of their free throws, a big key to pulling off this win.
Butler dropped their next game to Creighton, but then picked up three straight wins to finish the season. They would have been the 5-seed in the Big East Tournament and had worked their way back into the top 25.
Seton Hall secured the 3-seed in the Big East, though did drop a few rough games down the stretch, falling out of the top 10 again. Both teams had the potential to do some damage in the postseason, but it’s a shame that we’ll never get that chance to see stars like Myles Powell shine on the ultimate stage.
Fortunately, we still got great performances like this, with Mamukelashvili’s shot making this a memorable win for the Pirates. It’ll always be regrettable that neither team got their chance in the NCAA Tournament, but at least we have regular season moments like these to remember.