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Isaiah Cousins nets 19 points for Oklahoma in team’s 1-point win over Seton Hall.
Kevin Willard tried his best to put a positive spin on the effort his Seton Hall team put forth against Oklahoma. It was the final minute and a recurrence of Patrik Auda’s foot injury that could leave the Pirates stinging through the rest of the season.
After dictating play with their man pressure for the better part of the second half, the Pirates squandered a seven-point lead in the final 51 seconds, losing, 86-85, in the first semifinal of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic Friday night at Barclays Center.
The loss spoiled a chance for Seton Hall to showcase itself against top-ranked Michigan State, a 96-77 winner over Virginia Tech in Friday’s nightcap, in the championship game on Saturday. Instead, the Pirates (3-2) must settle for a consolation matchup with Virginia Tech.
Leading 84-77, Seton Hall turned the ball over three times over the final 1:14. In what seemed like an endless underneath the Seton Hall basket, the Sooners (4-0) stole the ball twice and ripped away three rebounds and took the 86-85 lead with 9.3 seconds left on the second of two made free throws by Cameron Clark (20 points, nine rebounds).
The Pirates struggled to get the ball up court again for the final shot, settling for a Brian Oliver (19 points) three-point attempt from the left corner that fell short.
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Sterling Gibbs goes up to score during his 26-point performance.
“It’s unfortunate.” Willard said. “I’m really proud of these guys. They battled. They did a lot of good things out there. You have to give Oklahoma credit… in the last 45 seconds they did a good job. We got a little bit out of whack and just didn’t take care of the ball. Overall I’m really proud.”
The disastrous finish tarnished a brilliant effort by sophomore guard Sterling Gibbs (a former Seton Hall Prep star), who scored a career-high 26 points (17-for-20 FT) to go with five assists in just his fifth game since transferring from Texas.
“(Oklahoma’s) a good trapping team. They’re a good defensive team,” said Gibbs, who is leading the Pirates with 18.8 ppg. “I think we got a little flustered in the last couple of seconds.”
On top of defeat, the Pirates appeared to have lost Auda, the junior forward who was averaging 14.5 ppg and 6.3 rpg entering Friday, for at least a month after he reinjured the same right foot that cut his season short last year.
Mount Vernon product Isaiah Cousins looked right at home in his first game in the New York area since arriving at Oklahoma a year ago, added 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting. His four-point play with 3:13 remaining kept Oklahoma close enough before the final push.
Sophomore guard Tom Maayan, whose time at West Orange may be over soon due to his impending redeployment in the Israeli military, contributed two points and three assists.