A promising season for Seton Hall basketball was in trouble. Mired in a losing streak, playing lousy defense, in need of some on-court leadership, the Pirates headed up Interstate 95 to Providence — the first of two straight road games that would make or break their NCAA Tournament hopes.
Three years ago, the Hall faced a situation almost identical to this week’s. Then came an impossible twist: The floor at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center turned into a Slip ‘N Slide, forcing a stoppage that led to the first and only two-day game in Big East history.
“It was just a crazy experience,” recalled Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall’s senior point guard that season. “The court was terrible. You really couldn’t play on it.”
The Pirates’ leading scorer, Desi Rodriguez, fell and got hurt after the hockey rink’s ice beneath the court had some melting on the unseasonably warm day, with water seeping onto the court. When play resumed the next day — in Providence’s 1,800 seat, 65-year-old Alumni Hall — freshman Myles Cale took Rodriguez’s place in the lineup.
“I would say it’s like playing in Walsh Gym,” Carrington said of the Rhode Island school’s on-campus bandbox. “It’s not what you’re used to in the Big East.”
Carrington dominated and the Pirates escaped with an 89-77 victory. They would beat St. John’s at Madison Square Garden two days later, a springboard to an eventual appearance in the second round of the Big Dance.
“That might have been the key win that got us in the tournament,” Carrington said of the two-day game. “It was a weird scenario, something you never forget.”
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As they headed back to the hotel after the Dunk’s meltdown, Carrington said, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard told everyone to keep calm, get some rest, and only worry about what they could control. That’s his style, and it has helped the Pirates pull out of skids on nearly an annual basis around this time. A refresher:
2015-16: Started 12-2, lost four of five, won Big East Tournament.
2016-17: Started 12-3, lost five of six, made NCAAs.
2017-18: Started 15-3, lost six of eight, made NCAAs.
2018-19: Started 12-4, lost four straight, made NCAAs.
2020-21: Started 8-4, lost four of five, TBD.
Willard’s teams usually respond with their backs to the wall. This is that week. With a trip to Connecticut on tap Saturday, there are two potential Quadrant 1 wins for the taking.
“Every team is going to go through a tough patch,” Carrington said. “Coach’s mindset is, it’s how you finish up.”
Now it’s back to Alumni Hall for Seton Hall (9-8 overall, 6-5 Big East), where Providence (9-8, 5-6) is playing all of its home games this season. At least Cale and fellow seniors Sandro Mamukelashvili and Shavar Reynolds are familiar with the place. In addition to scoring eight points in that two-day game, Cale also trained there with the Big East-based U.S. entry in the 2019 Pan American Games.
The contest tips at 7 p.m. Wednesday on Fox Sports 1. Carrington, who is home in New York City after suffering a torn ACL while playing professionally in Monaco in October, will be watching.
“I like this team,” he said. “They’ve got a pretty good core. I think they’ll figure it out.”
Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and the college basketball beat since 2003. He is an Associated Press Top 25 voter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.