No. 3 Villanova knocks off Seton Hall, sending the Pirates hurtling toward the bubble

Seton Hall failed in its latest attempt to beat a Top-25 opponent and with their latest loss, the Pirates are hurtling toward the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Playing No. 3 Villanova for the second time in 12 days, Seton Hall lost, 80-72, at Prudential Center for their third straight loss. The Pirates fell to 0-5 this season against AP Top 25 opponents, 0-4 against ranked teams in the Big East.

Mike DeCourcy, the Fox Sports bracketologist, said Seton Hall (9-8, 6-5 Big East) is now officially on the bubble after entering this week as a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

“Yes, if they lose they’ll be out of my next bracket,” DeCourcy told NJ Advance Media during the game. “No team ever has made the field at one game over .500. The nature of this season may change that precedent, but I’m not ready to go there.”

Seton Hall still has three Quad-1 wins and entered the day ranked No. 45 by

“I’m proud of how we fought,” said senior Myles Cale, who scored 12 points. “Our confidence is still high, we still believe in each other, we’re not turning away from each other.

“We’re looking forward to winning games. We have to get back in the lab and just fix things up.”

Under Jay Wright, Villanova (11-1, 6-0 Big East) won its 10th straight and continues to project as a No. 1 seed.

On Jan. 9, the Wildcats edged the Pirates, 76-74 when Sandro Mamukelashvili couldn’t hold on to a baseball pass from Takal Molson in the final seconds for a potential go-ahead basket.

The rematch was never that close.

Playing in front of his mother and aunt for the second straight game, Mamukelashvili shot 4-of-15 for 12 points with nine rebounds and three assists. His mother, Marianna, Oakley, is visiting from Tbilisi, Georgia. Mamukelashvili entered the game ranked fifth in the conference in scoring (17.9 ppg), tied for eighth in rebounding (6.9 rpg) and 13th in assists (3.3 apg).

Jared Rhoden also scored 12 points apiece and Shavar Reynolds notched 13 with three assists.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led the Wildcats with 23 points and five rebounds, Jermaine Samuels scored 17 points, Justin Moore had 16 and Big East Player of the Year favorite Collin Gillespie had 11 assists with 11 points.

After leading by as many as 16 in the first half, Villanova led 37-27 at the half after making 6-of-12 from behind the arc. Seton Hall missed six layups in the first half

The Pirates got within 67-60 on a Cale three-pointer with about two and a half minutes remaining, but Samuels hit two foul shots to push it to 69-60. Seton Hall never got closer than six points.

The Pirates fell to 1-8 this year when allowing more than 70 points.

Seton Hall has allowed 27 three-pointers in its last two losses, to No. 17 Creighton and and Villanova.

“Protect that three-point line, everybody knows that’s our weakness right now,” Cale said. “As soon as we do that we’ll be a winning team and we’ll be fine.”

The Hall now faces a tough two-game road swing with games at Providence Wednesday at UConn next Saturday.

“I think we’re definitely disappointed but we know we have a lot of college basketball left to be played,” coach Kevin Willard said. “We still got a month and a half left.”

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Adam Zagoria is a freelance reporter who covers Seton Hall and NJ college basketball for NJ Advance Media.

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