By Harvey Hoffman

Justin Moore hit a go-ahead jumper with 1:36 left and No. 22 Villanova secured a 73-67 victory over No. 15 Seton Hall, which was decimated by COVID.

“There is no way we came in here thinking they are down two starters this is going to be an easy game,” Cats coach Jay Wright said.

Collin Gillespie scored 21 points, Brandon Slater added 17 and Moore had 13 to lead the Wildcats (9-4, 2-1). Jermaine Samuels added 11 points and 11 rebounds as Nova held a 42-28 rebounding edge with Seton Hall missing two key big men because of COVID-19.

“It’s a good win for us to come in and have a tough night shooting because of their defense and physicality and finding a way to win,” Wright said after seeing his team turning the ball over 17 times and shoot 44% from the field.

Backup guard Bryce Aiken had 22 points to lead Seton Hall, which has lost the last two games playing with only eight players because of COVID-19 issues. Jared Rhoden added 13 and Jamir Harris had 12, all on 3-pointers, for the Pirates (9-3, 0-2).

“We’re still in a good spot,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “We’re still a very good basketball team. Losing two games is not going to change that when you have eight guys.”

Villanova’s play on the offensive glass was the key. Moore’s go-ahead shot gave the Wildcats a 62-61 lead and it came after Gillespie missed and 3-pointer and Bryan Antoine got the rebound. After a Pirates miss, Slater made two free throws for a 64-61 edge after another offensive rebound. Another Gillespie free throw pushed the lead to five points.

Wright also noted Moore added five defensive rebounds and did a great job guarding Rhoden, the Pirates’ best player.

“He does so many things that impact the game,” Wright said of Moore. “He hit the huge jumper late in the second half when we were down one. He is just that kind of player.”

Seton Hall got within two points twice in the final 10 seconds but Villanova made 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch to post its fourth straight win over the Pirates.

“I have the utmost faith in this team,” Harris said. “I believe in every guy, 1 through 13 or 15, all our players, I believe in every one. We work really, really hard on unselfish and we care about winning. I feel like we showed that every time we go out on the floor, so tonight was another example.”

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