NEW YORK — The latest buzzer-beater at the Big East tournament belongs to a Seton Hall reserve with a familiar last name.
Sterling Gibbs hit a step-back jumper as time expired and Seton Hall stunned No. 3 Villanova 64-63 in a thrilling quarterfinal Thursday, a loss that could cost the Wildcats a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
“We’re really confident, honestly, especially after you beat the No. 3 team in the country,” said Gibbs, a sophomore transfer from Texas whose brother was a Pittsburgh star. “We know if we can beat them, we can beat anyone. So we’re just up for the challenge.”
Eugene Teague had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the eighth-seeded Pirates (17-16), who advanced to the tournament semifinals for the first time in 13 years. They will play St. John’s or Providence on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Josh Hart scored 18 to lead the top-seeded Wildcats (28-4), beaten only twice in 18 regular-season conference games while winning their first outright Big East title since 1982. Both losses were blowouts by Doug McDermott and Creighton.
“You’ve all heard me say this before: This was not about 1 seeds, 2 seeds. This was about we wanted to come to Madison Square Garden and win the Big East tournament. Winning the Big East tournament would mean much more to us than a 1 seed,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “The NCAA tournament seedings, my belief is 1, 2, 3, it doesn’t matter that much. You’re going to play great teams.”
Patrik Auda scored all 13 of his points in the first half for Seton Hall, a 10½-point underdog. But the pesky Pirates, accustomed to playing close games, built a 15-point lead and recovered after Villanova spurted past them with a 16-0 run in the second half.
It was Seton Hall’s first victory in five tries against top-seeded teams at the Big East tournament.
“We never really got rattled,” coach Kevin Willard said. “These guys have a lot of heart. They have a lot of character, and they deserve to win.”
Villanova took a 63-62 lead on Darrun Hilliard’s floater in the lane with 7.8 seconds to go. Seton Hall pushed the ball past halfcourt, then called timeout with 3.7 seconds left.
With much of the crowd on its feet, Jaren Sina inbounded and Gibbs backed off Hilliard with a hard step back, draining a 17-foot jumper from the top of the key just as the horn sounded.
“We usually don’t like to call timeouts. We usually like just to go. But I wanted the ball, at that time, in Sterling’s hands,” Willard said.
A fired-up Gibbs, who finished with 10 points, jumped onto the scorer’s table and looked up at the crowd as excited teammates ran all over the court in a wild celebration.
The shot was a near carbon copy of the one Kemba Walker hit three years ago at the Garden during Connecticut’s captivating run to Big East and NCAA tournament championships. That buzzer-beating jumper by Walker, also in the quarterfinals, beat a top-seeded Pittsburgh team that was led by Gibbs’ brother, Ashton.
“It ended up being a little bit of a scramble. The plan kind of got switched up a little bit,” Sterling Gibbs said before Teague interrupted.