Bryce Aiken/ josh adams
It feels like a thousand years since there's been a packed house at the Prudential Center for a top 25 matchup. Thursday night proved that the fans haven't forgotten how to blow the roof off the place as the #7 Texas Longhorns visited #23, Seton Hall, in a Big 12- Big East Challenge matchup. A full student section, a packed lower bowl of the arena, and many Texas fans that either lived in the area or made the trip from Austin made this atmosphere feel like it was March. It was the Pirates who battled it out down the stretch as they valiantly defeated their second Top 10 opponent this season by beating Texas on their home floor in front of a fanbase that was thirsty for a huge win and got one by the score of 64-60.
"That was a really good gutsy December win by them. All credit to Seton Hall, I thought when the season starts there are a dozen or so teams that had a chance to win the national championship, I think they’re one of them,” Texas coach Chris Beard said after the game where Seton Hall held Texas to 2 of 13 shooting down the stretch and held the Longhorns to 32% shooting in the second half. "On a night like tonight, you have to manufacture points off your defense", said Beard, "We played one of the top 10 or 15 teams in the country tonight on their home floor and I'm confident we'll win those games sooner rather than later this season".
Look, Chris Beard is not one for hyperbole. For the Longhorns coach to call Seton Hall one of the top 12 teams that could win a national championship is a pretty big deal.
The biggest shots down the stretch were made by Bryce Aiken. He scored the last five points for the Pirates to put the game away. "Tonight, was another step in the right direction. We're a great team and we've been trying to tell you guys like that all year", said Aiken "We never see ourselves as underdogs, we approach every game like we're top dogs."
Another program defining win for Kevin Willard and the Pirates. With Rutgers coming in on Sunday, there won't be a lot of time for the Pirates to relax. Aside from the usual high-intensity in-state rivalry, Rutgers is coming off an inspired effort over #1 Purdue, defeating the Boilermakers at home on Thursday night.
Folks, the stakes have never been higher with this Garden State Hardwood Classic. Tonight's wins by both schools have made Sunday night a must-see-TV event.