Photo Credit: David Siegrist

Seton Hall edges past Rutgers in the Garden State Hardwood Classic

The Seton Hall Pirates (6-4) defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-4, 1-1) in the Garden State Hardwood Classic in front of a sold-out crowd of 8,500 at Jersey Mike's Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey.

In a low-scoring contest, KC Ndefo's lay-up off glass put Seton Hall up for good 45-43 with less than two minutes remaining in the second half.

Both Ndefo and Rutgers Caleb McConnell came up with clutch blocked shots. The Scarlet Knights had multiple opportunities to tie the game up in the last minute of action, but the ball did not drop through.

After the Pirates' Dre Davis missed a pair of free throws with 0.6 secs remaining, a last-second desperation heave by Paul Mulcahy of Rutgers fell way short of the basket. That led to Seton Hall players celebrating victory and raising the Garden State Hardwood Classic Trophy.

The Scarlet Knights led 26-22 at halftime as both teams struggled to score points in the first half. Tied at 12-12, the Pirates erupted for a 7-0 run. Rutgers was ice-cold without a point for five minutes until Clifford Omoruyi sank a pair of free throws to end the drought with four and a half minutes left.

Omoruyi electrified the home crowd with a thunderous slam dunk that led to a Scarlet Knights 7-0 spurt to tie the game up at 19-19 with three and a half minutes remaining.

Audre Hyatt extended the Rutgers run to 10-0, burying his second trifecta of the game. However, Seton Hall responded, tying the game up at 22-22 as Jamir Harris matched Hyatt's long-range output.

The Scarlet Knights ended the first half sizzling from the free throw line hitting four shots and a perfect 7 of 7 from the charity stripe line.

In the second half, Rutgers widened their advantage to 33-26 at the 15-minute mark. Audre Hyatt buried his third trey of the game. The back-and-forth game continued as the Pirates countered with a 7-0 run.

The two teams engaged in a heavyweight battle as the Scarlet Knights went ahead 38-34 with Caleb McConnell draining a trifecta.

Seton Hall ignited a rebuttal with a 6-0 run that was capped off by a spectacular lay-up by Dre Davis as he slashed his way into the lane to put the Pirates back in front 40-38.

In a physical contest, Omoruyi and Seton Hall's Femi Odukale were assessed double technical fouls. The referees were busy in this game whistling fouls as both teams were at the foul line shooting free throws.

Seton Hall Head Coach Shaheen Holloway on the win: "We're a physical team, we just got a bunch of older guys, juniors and seniors and came in and understood the game and what the rivalry is and stepped up."

"Both teams played physical, and it was a hard-fought game and we just happened to come out with the win. I want to give Coach Pikiell and Rutgers a lot of credit for playing hard and they're well-coached," I told the guys: I thought the game would be like this, and we're starting to understand who we are on the defensive end, and getting everyone back was key for us.

Rutgers Head Coach Steve Pikiell on the loss: "Credit to Seton Hall, they played harder. We talked about the keys to the game beforehand about ball reversals and not turning the ball before and obviously we did not do that."

"We still had chances to win the game. You have to deserve to win in basketball and we didn't deserve to win tonight. Seton Hall is good, they have a good coach and did a good job of stealing the ball. I have been through these rivalry games and a few points here and there."

"No matter what the record are in a rivalry you have to come and bring it and they brought it and deserved to win. We didn't play with the right energy in this game."

Next up for Seton Hall is a match-up against Drexel (5-5) on Wednesday at the Prudential Center, with tip-off set for 7 p.m. Meanwhile, Rutgers squares off against Wake Forest on Saturday at Jersey Mike's Arena, with tip-off set for noon.