NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — After struggling most of the season, Seton Hall seemingly has found itself on the eve of the Big East tournament.
Jeremy Hazell scored 21 points in his final home game and Seton Hall followed its upset of No. 15 St. John’s with an impressive 85-72 victory over Marquette on Saturday night that may have put the Golden Eagles’ NCAA tournament hopes in serious jeopardy.
“We came out the last two home games and played great,” said Hazell, who had 31 in the win over St. John’s on Thursday. “We played outstanding. This was the team we were supposed to be, so I am glad we got on track going into the Big East (tournament).”
Seton Hall (13-17, 7-11) needs to win the Big East tournament to keep its season alive, which means putting up five more wins, starting on Tuesday afternoon in a game against New Jersey-rival Rutgers (14-16, 5-13).
“Anything is possible once you get to the Big East,” Hazell said. “Whoever is hot on that night can win it. I just hope we get hot on those nights.”
The Pirates used the same formula against Marquette that they did against St. John’s. They buried 3-pointers.
They had 12 in beating the Red Storm and hit another dozen against Marquette (18-13, 9-9) in posting consecutive wins for the second time since the start of 2011.
“This is what I imagined this team could be after the Alabama game,” Seton Hall rookie coach Kevin Willard said of the third game of the season.
That win over Alabama came at a cost. Hazell broke his wrist and missed 13 games. Forward Herb Pope, who underwent off-season heart surgery, is finally playing like last year and the team is getting contributions from more than Hazell.
It showed against Marquette.
Freshman Patrick Auda added a career-high 14 points and Jordan Theodore had 12 as the Pirates has six players in double figures. Eniel Polynice added 11 points and Pope and Jeff Robinson scored 10 apiece.
“We played with a lot of emotion tonight,” Pope said. “Normally I try to tell everyone to stay calm and not be rah-rah, but then I said this is the seniors’ night, let’s play all out and not worry about anybody. Let’s play all out and send these guys out with a win.”
The loss could be a problem for Marquette, which probably needs a big run in the conference tournament to get an NCAA tournament bid.
Coach Buzz Williams kept the locker room closed for 75 minutes after the game.
“I don’t know what we have to do,” Williams said. “There are a lot of people who make a living out of guessing. I’m not going to do that. The best answer I can give is that we have to win and play and not worry about it. I honestly don’t think about that at all. We need to work on us and this was not our best at all.”
Dwight Buycks added 15 and Darius Johnson-Odom 13 for the Golden Eagles, who trailed 49-35 at the half after seeing the Pirates nail 11 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes.
Seton Hall hit seven 3-pointers in the opening 11:25, taking a 32-16 lead on a bomb by Hazell. The Pirates led by as many as 17 in the opening half and only had to withstand one major run by the Golden Warriors, who got within 63-55 on a three-point play by Butler with 7:13 to play.
Polynice, who also was playing his final home game, hit a free throw, Pope put in his own rebound and Hazell added a dagger by swishing a 3-pointer at the shot clock for a 69-55 lead. The Pirates built the lead to 19 points before Marquette made the score respectable in garbage time.
“We know that we blew our opportunity, but we’re not dead yet,” said Marquette junior forward Jae Crowder, who had one point in 21 minutes. “We still have a chance. We know we can get it done.”
Marquette will play Providence (15-16, 4-14) in the opening round of the conference tournament on Tuesday.