Seton Hall All-American guard Myles Powell decided to stay in school rather than go pro for the chance to lead Seton Hall to bigger and better things this season such as leading the Pirates to the Sweet 16 and beating teams such as Michigan State.
So the senior guard would not take no for an answer when he suffered a high ankle sprain against Stony Brook and take the Michigan State game off. He worked too hard to skip a marquee game just for an injury. He would play through it no matter what. Games like that are hard to come by for him, and there would be no next year for him.
Powell played to the surprise of everyone on Thursday night. His presence provided an emotional boost for the Pirates against Michigan State at Prudential Center. He put on a show by scoring 37 points despite the No. 12 Seton Hall Pirates losing 76-73 to No. 3 Michigan State Spartans in the fifth annual Gavitt Tipoff Games. He showed why he is the favorite to win the Big East Player of the Year this season along with winning the Haggerty Award for the second straight year.
No question Fox Sports and the Big East celebrated Powell playing since he and Michigan State guard Cassius Winston highlighted the nationally televised Gavitt Tipoff Games that featured the third-highest college basketball crowd in the history of Prudential Center. Fans felt they got their money’s worth watching Powell do his thing.
Powell started off with a pedestrian 13 points in the first half. He missed so many shots along with Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili and Quincy McKnight in that half, which was why Seton Hall trailed 30-27 over Michigan State at halftime. Seton Hall’s defense kept them in the game on the play of Romaro Gill (5 blocks).
To be honest, it may have been too much to expect the Seton Hall star to put on a show after coming off an ankle sprain. His presence itself turned out to be a win since no one thought he was playing. Even Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard had to be surprised. It was hours before tipoff Powell told his coach that he wanted to play. Who was Willard to say no? He knew Powell wanted this game for a chance to shine against Winston and put Seton Hall in the map, so he would not deny him.
Powell’s will to play may have helped him get through a rough start for him. He amped up his play in the second half by shooting much better. He scored 24 of his 37 points in that half to put Seton Hall in a position to beat Michigan State.
Powell started it off by scoring the first bucket of the second half for Seton Hall. He hit a layup to cut Seton Hall’s deficit to 32-29 against Michigan State. Then, he got it going by scoring nine points, including a jump shot, couple of 3-pointers and a free throw, to spear a Seton Hall’s 17-10 spurt that would give them a 56-55 lead.
The Trenton guard hit his fifth and sixth 3-pointer of the game to complete a 9-0 Pirates’ run that would give Seton Hall a 71-66 lead with 2:41 to go in the game.
With the way he was shooting, he gave the vibe he won’t be denied of his night. After all, he somehow had the strength to play and he somehow overcame his shooting struggles on this night.
Powell shot two free throws to give Seton Hall a 73-72 lead.
But then Michigan State freshman forward Malik Hall went out of nowhere to steal the script of what could have been a feel-good story for Powell and Seton Hall. He made a layup to give Michigan State a 74-73 lead and stole the ball from Powell with five seconds to go. This after he failed to score a point in his first two games as a Spartan.
Myles Cale fouled Winston to extend the game going after Michigan State got the possession from Hall’s turnover. Winston hit two free throws giving last year’s Final Four finalist a 76-73 lead with four seconds to go.
Everyone knew who would have the ball to make the last shot for Seton Hall. No well-kept secret there. It was either Powell for overtime or game over.
The moment came for him, not Cale, McKnight or Mamukelashvili.
Powell drove to the lane to attempt to score, but he collided with Winston and instead of getting the foul call, the ball went to Michigan State.
Hard to tell whether it was a foul or a good defensive play there.
In the end, the ref’s call was all that matters, and Powell forced to hit a Hail Mary from halfcourt that did not go in.
On a night meant for the Seton Hall star, all he could settle for is a moral victory and an encouraging comment and an embrace by Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo. He accepted adulation from fans, announcers and his contemporaries on this night.
He would have preferred a real victory and the game-winning shot.
He did not come back from an injury and not bypass his senior year to lose out to Hall and Michigan State State in the end. He wanted to be the guy that won, not some freshman from Michigan State.
So bittersweet in so many ways.