NEWARK, N.J. (AP)—All No. 6 West Virginia had to do to remain undefeated was withstand a miraculous close to regulation by Seton Hall and another big scoring game by Jeremy Hazell.
The Mountaineers blew a 10-point lead with less than a minute to play in regulation Saturday, then managed to win 90-84 in the Big East opener for both teams despite a career-high 41 points by Hazell.
“It’s a huge concern,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of losing the late lead. “Our two guys missed the front ends of 1-and-1. If we make those, then it really doesn’t matter.”
At least the Mountaineers (10-0), one of six remaining unbeatens in Division I, were able to overcome their missed free throws.
Seton Hall (9-2) couldn’t, finishing 16 of 33 from the line, including going 8 of 20 from there after halftime.
“The free throws were a disaster,” Pirates coach Bobby Gonzalez said. “You cannot miss 17 free throws when you play the No. 6 team in the country in your building with a chance to win.”
Devin Ebanks had 22 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists for West Virginia, Da’Sean Butler had 21 points and six assists, and Kevin Jones added 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Mountaineers.
The three combined for all 13 of West Virginia’s points in the overtime.
Butler hit a 3-pointer 34 seconds into the extra period to give West Virginia the lead for good. The biggest plays of the overtime, though, belonged to Jones.
Ebanks missed a jumper as the shot clock wound down with 56 seconds to play and Jones grabbed the rebound. With 32 seconds left, Jones hit a 3 to give West Virginia an 87-80 lead and the Pirates didn’t get closer than six points the rest of the way.
“We’re leading and we’re going to run clock,” Huggins said. “KJ rebounds it and he’s smart enough to kick it out and run some more clock and then he hits a huge 3 for us. We were first lucky to get the rebound and smart enough that he didn’t try to score.”
Ebanks was the only player on either team to play all 45 minutes and the 6-foot-9 sophomore spent almost the whole game running the point and he didn’t turn the ball over once.
“He’s starting to come around and show that he can become one of the best players in the best conference in the history of college basketball,” Huggins said. “I’m amazed he didn’t turn it over.”
Hazell, the Big East’s third-leading scorer at 20.0 points per game, had scored 35 points twice before in his career. The junior guard finished 14 of 33 from the field, including 4 of 19 from 3-point range.
“I’m a shooter and shooter’s shoot,” said Hazell, who entered the game hitting 31.6 percent from 3-point range. “I thought they were all going in not just the two at the end of regulation.”
Butler’s three-point play with 57 seconds left in regulation gave the Mountaineers a 75-65 lead. Hazell hit a 3 to cap a 9-0 run that brought Seton Hall within 75-74 with 15 seconds left. Butler made two free throws for a three-point lead with 12.9 seconds left. Hazell hit a 3 with 6.9 seconds left to tie it and Ebanks missed a chance to win it when his 3-point attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
“I told them that the game was not over, that we were still playing to win,” Gonzalez said of the Pirates’ last timeout before the run to close regulation. “We were not ready to pack it in. Our team doesn’t come back if we don’t show some ticker. Our quickness gave us a chance to win.”
The last time a Seton Hall player scored as many points as Hazell did was Feb. 17, 1993, when Terry Dehere had 41 against St. John’s.
Huggins has seen these kind of games before from Hazell.
“Jeremy Hazell just licks his chops when he sees West Virginia. He’s had 29, 30 and now 41 the last three times he played us,” Huggins said. “And I thought we did a pretty good job defending him and he still got 41. He makes shots and that’s why he takes them. I don’t know if there’s anyone in our league that can take shots as quick as he does. No one else is making those shots in our league, no way. If you watch tape of them, he might be missing and then all of a sudden, he goes crazy.”
The Mountaineers have won 26 consecutive games when they score 70 points.
“I’m aware of the stat and I tell the kids that we need to score 70,” Huggins said. “But there will be times like today where we need to score more. But it still comes down to having to defend and rebound. Those are the two key components of the game.”
West Virginia has won five straight games in the series, including a 92-66 blowout last season.