NEW YORK – Seton Hall got hit with the injury bug early and often this season. It kept affecting them right to the last game — a 75-63 loss to No. 19 Syracuse on Wednesday in the second round of the Big East tournament.
The 12th-seeded Pirates started well against the fifth-seeded Orange, leading by 10 points three times in the first half before settling for a 34-all halftime tie.
The Orange took control with a 19-2 run in the second half and it was another chance to play "What if?" for the Pirates.
"These guys did what they did all year long," Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. "It's tough to explain, as a coach, to normal people how proud I am of these guys because no one's been in our locker room. No one's been in our practices, and these guys all year long gave unbelievable effort, unbelievable attitude, and we're playing like we did tonight, usually with six guys all year."
James Southerland hit five 3-pointers in the first half to keep Syracuse in the game and Brandon Triche keyed a big second-half run for the Orange.
Fifth-seeded Syracuse (24-8) extended its Big East tenure with the win and the Orange will play fourth-seeded and 17th-ranked Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Ironically, both Syracuse and Pittsburgh are ACC-bound after this season.
Syracuse, which had lost four of its last five games, looked more like the team that was second in the league in scoring (72.3). The Orange looked nothing like the team that managed just 39 points in a 22-point loss to Georgetown to close the regular season.
Syracuse, which managed the fewest points since a 36-35 win over Kent State on Dec. 1, 1962, matched its total from the Georgetown loss with its second field goal of second half for a 39-34 lead.
Southerland scored all but three of his 20 points in the first half, which finished in a 34-34 tie. Triche finished with 17 points and seven of those were consecutive points he scored in the 19-2 run that turned a 46-all tie into a 65-48 Syracuse lead with 4:41 to play.
Michael Carter-Williams, who is fourth in the NCAA at 7.58 assists per game, had 14, including two impressive alley-oop passes for dunks.
"Our offensive movement was the best it's been probably all year. We really moved the ball," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "Mike played, I think, his best game of the year. James kept us in it when we weren't playing well. And then Brandon and C.J. (Fair) got going the second half.
"For us to be effective, Mike has to make plays, and Brandon and C.J. and James have to score. That's what happened in this game."
Aaron Cosby had 22 points for the 12th-seeded Pirates (15-18), who beat South Florida 46-42 in overtime in the opening round on Tuesday.
"This morning we woke up, had breakfast, and kind of just had a walkthrough in a ballroom," Willard said. "You play probably as good a coached team as there is in the country and as talented a team as there is, we probably could have used a couple of extra hours, not only rest but just preparation."
Seton Hall couldn't match the depth of the Orange. When center Eugene Teague, who had 13 points, picked up his third foul early in the second half it was just minutes later that the Orange took off on their game-breaking run.
"I usually don't get emotional at the end of the year but this one hurts because it was such a frustrating year," Willard said. "I think I kind of knew how we could have been all year if we'd been healthy, and I feel bad for these guys because they really had to deal with a lot of negativity and a lot of frustration from the fact that it's hard to explain that you go into this league or any league with six guys, 5 1-2 healthy guys."
Willard ran off a litany of injuries this season and even tried some gallows humor.
"We took a vote who wasn't hurt this year, and I think (reserve guard) Tommy (Maayan) was the only guy that didn't get hurt, and he was coming off ACL surgery," Willard said. "So I'm just proud of them. I really am. I hate losing, but I love these guys."
Both teams had great games from beyond the 3-point line. Syracuse was 9 of 15 with Southerland going 6 of 9. The Pirates were 10 of 20 with Cosby making 4 of 6.
Seton Hall came into the game second in the league shooting 36.3 percent while the Orange came in shooting 31.3 percent, 12th in the conference.
Triche hit a 3-pointer to start his 7-0 run and when it went through he gave a fist pump, a rare show of emotion for the senior.
"I haven't made a 3-pointer in like a month. So I figured I'd celebrate a little bit," he said exaggerating the drought by 10 days.
Southerland had also been struggling from long range, going 1 for 13 in the last two games combined.
"I thought I did a good job of moving the ball. I'm capable of spreading out the floor," he said before looking ahead. "I know Pitt plays a physical game. We're going to go out and be physical and move the ball around. We'll be tough to guard."