NEW YORK -- Seton Hall gave the new Big East its first big moment Thursday.
It couldn’t pull off another one.
Playing in the Big East tournament semifinals for the first time since 2001, the Pirates fell short against Providence, 80-74.
The Friars further enhanced their NCAA tournament résumé, while Seton Hall’s sudden chance to steal an NCAA bid was snuffed out.
“We just got to give credit when credit is due,” said Seton Hall senior Fuquan Edwin, who scored a team-high 20. “Providence played a great game. ... They hit some tough shots.”
The Pirates were playing their third game in three days, thanks to their eighth-place finish in the regular season, and it may have caught up with them. Providence, which finished tied for third and bypassed the first round, looked like the quicker team on the glass and on the floor for loose balls.
An early 12-0 run put the Friars in front, 25-14, as Seton Hall went scoreless for more than five minutes.
They never quit, either. Down nine with under 20 seconds left, Seton Hall managed to cut it to four, 78-74. And Edwin could have made it 78-76, after Providence’s Bryce Cotton was whistled for an offensive foul. But Edwin missed a layup in traffic with eight seconds to go, which was the last straw.
“I’m very sad,” Edwin said. “I wish we could have pulled through with the win. It would have been good playing in the championship game. I just want to give credit to our effort. I think we battled hard.”
Seton Hall finishes the season with a record of 17-17. Despite two wins in New York this week, the Pirates are unlikely to receive an NIT bid, and coach Kevin Willard said he would decline an invitation to the other postseason tournaments (CBI, CIT) because of injury concerns.
Edwin has been playing with a bad thumb, and others are banged up as well.
“They’re good tournaments. They’re well-run,” Willard said. “But right now with my seniors where they are, getting [Edwin] healthy is my most -- my number one [priority].”
Willard has now failed to get Seton Hall into the NCAA tournament in his first four years on the job. But brighter days appear on the horizon, thanks to the impending arrival of guard Isaiah Whitehead and forward Angel Delgado, both ranked among the top 50 high school seniors in the country by ESPN.
Edwin and fellow senior starters Oliver and Eugene Teague won’t be around to see them, however.
“These guys, unfortunately, their win-loss record hasn’t been phenomenal, but over the last two years, they’ve provided a solid foundation for us to build on for the future,” Willard said. “These guys have been instrumental in helping us go from a very unstable situation to a pretty stable situation.”
That trio will never get to the Big Dance. But they’ll always have the memories from this week, especially that stunning upset of top seed Villanova in the Big East quarterfinals, on a buzzer-beater.
We won’t soon forget it, either.