Published January 13, 2015
Farewell began with a basketball fiasco.
Airballs, bricks, sloppy turnovers, scrums on the floor.
The first game of this Big East finale was no masterpiece, that's for sure. Then again, maybe it was fitting for a conference that's always prided itself on rugged defense and physical play.
Fuquan Edwin scored 17 points, including the final six in regulation, and Seton Hall rallied past South Florida 46-42 in overtime Tuesday night in the unsightly opener of a last-of-its-kind tournament.
"In this league, it's happened before. It's not the first time," Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said.
Gene Teague added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the 12th-seeded Pirates (15-17), who face No. 19 Syracuse in the second round Wednesday afternoon.
Even after playing an extra 5 minutes, the teams barely eclipsed the lowest-scoring game in Big East tournament history, Georgetown's 46-41 first-round victory over Villanova in 2003.
But that hardly bothered the Pirates, who had lost 11 of 12.
"Oh, no, a win is a win," Teague said. "I'm proud that we won, and I'm ready to play Syracuse."
The Orange won 76-65 at Seton Hall on Feb. 16.
Zach LeDay had 13 points and 15 rebounds to lead No. 13 seed South Florida (12-19), which shot 24.2 percent and squandered an eight-point cushion down the stretch in a game between offensively challenged squads that both went 3-15 in conference play.
"It's a tough way to finish our season. We gave the game away," coach Stan Heath said. "We certainly had an opportunity to close it out in regulation. I think the wrong guys had the ball, and some of the wrong decisions were being made."
It was an ugly start to a nostalgic week at Madison Square Garden, the site of so many memorable moments for the Big East tournament over the past three decades. The conference is splitting apart after this season, with seven basketball-centric Catholic schools — Seton Hall among them — breaking off to create their own league.
That group will retain the Big East name and is expected to play its conference tournament at MSG. But after all the recent defections and squabbling between schools, there is one thing everyone agrees on: this March Madness event will never be quite the same.
South Florida is one of three programs staying — albeit with a yet-to-be-determined new name — in a conference that will play major college football and welcome teams like Memphis, Central Florida, SMU and Houston.
Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame are headed to the ACC next season, with Louisville soon to follow. Rutgers heads to the Big Ten in 2014-15.
But first, there is another Big East title to be decided just a few blocks from Broadway.
South Florida, wearing bright green-and-yellow uniforms, went 16 for 66 from the field and 5 for 26 (19 percent) from 3-point range.
Still, the Bulls had their biggest lead at 37-29 after LeDay's basket with 3:09 to go in the second half. After a Pirates timeout, Aaron Cosby made two free throws for Seton Hall with 2:50 remaining, and then Edwin took over.
He scored on a driving layup with 1:15 left and hit a fast-break layup with 35 seconds remaining to make it a two-point game. South Florida turned the ball over, and another driving layup by Edwin tied it at 37 with 18.8 seconds left.
"Fu has an unbelievable motor. He can play 40-plus minutes and still go." Willard said. "I think he still had a little juice left in it. He wanted the ball on the last play and made a great play."
The Bulls had three chances to win it at the end of regulation, but Anthony Collins had his shot blocked by Teague, Martino Brock missed from the baseline and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick failed to put in a tip attempt.
Cosby and Victor Rudd, who finished with 11 points, exchanged 3-pointers early in overtime before the Pirates took control.
Edwin's layup on a pass from Teague put Seton Hall up 44-42 with 55 seconds to go, and South Florida squandered two opportunities to tie it on its next possession. Collins missed in the lane, but the Bulls grabbed the rebound. Rudd was off on a 3 with 3 seconds left, and the ball went out of bounds to Seton Hall.
Edwin made two foul shots with 0.9 seconds left to seal it.
South Florida, which made the NCAA tournament last year, also dropped its 2013 regular-season finale in overtime, at Cincinnati.
Collins had nine assists and played all 45 minutes for the Bulls, who pulled down 27 offensive rebounds but shot 2 for 11 in overtime. They outrebounded Seton Hall 47-33.
"Maybe we didn't make the best choices, but we certainly gave great effort," Heath said. "I think the guys are a little frustrated, too. It's like there was a lid on the rim, and we couldn't seem to throw it in there."
Seton Hall finished 18 for 44 from the field (41 percent), but only 4 of 18 (22 percent) from beyond the arc.
"It was just a sluggish game from the start," Edwin said.
Big East basketball has often been more physical than pretty, but this game was especially messy.
Off-balance players clobbered each other in the lane. Brock threw a wild pass over the Seton Hall bench in the first half. Neither team managed to draw a shooting foul for the first 25 minutes until Rudd hit a pair of free throws with 14:57 remaining.
"I think the way Stan plays, they're going to make you guard for 30 seconds," Willard said. "They limit the number of opportunities. We hurt ourselves early with turnovers, and I think that's what kind of got us in a little bit of a fog."
LeDay's alley-oop dunk on a nice pass from Collins gave the Bulls a 29-21 advantage with 13:55 to go, prompting a timeout by Willard. But then USF went nearly 10 minutes without a field goal. Rudd finally ended the drought with a 3-pointer at the 4:08 mark, pumping his fist after a shot that made it 35-29.
Seton Hall turned the ball over on four of its first six possessions and went 7:55 without scoring until Teague's basket inside with 47 seconds remaining in the first half.
Fitzpatrick's putback just before the buzzer sent South Florida to the locker room with a 20-17 advantage.