Seton Hall won for the seventh time in eight games on Saturday and took over sole possession of second place in the Big East Conference as a result.
Sandro Mamulkelashvili finished with 24 points, six assists and nine rebounds while Jared Rhoden tallied 19 points and seven rebounds as the Pirates knocked off Butler, 68-60, at Prudential Center for their third straight win to improve to 8-4, 5-1 in the Big East. It marks the program’s fourth 5-1 start in league play and the win marked the seventh straight year Seton Hall has won its first game of the New Year.
Only No. 4-ranked Villanova (8-1, 3-0) has a better league record, while No. 11 Creighton (8-2, 4-1) is in third place in the conference after Saturday’s 67-65 win at Providence.
“We’re just the players who want to play hard and everything else comes by itself so we’re just out there hustling and playing hard and diving on the floor and making coach happy and everything else going to be taken care of by itself,” “Mamu,” who had his sixth 20-point outing of the season, said on FS1.
This was the first of eight games this month for Seton Hall, including two apiece against Villanova and Creighton.
Clinging to a 54-53 lead, Tyrese Samuel made a layup off an interior pass from Shavar Reynolds (10 points, three assists) to make it 56-53. Rhoden added a pullup jumper to push it to 58-53.
After a Jair Bolden three-pointer cut it to 58-56, Myles Cale drained a corner three for a 61-56 Seton Hall lead.
Samuel then made a key steal while Butler was in transition that led to Reynold making two foul shots to extend the lead to 63-56.
Rhoden made 1-of-2 foul shots to push it to 64-58 before freshman guard Myles Tate (career-high 22) scored on the other end.
Seton Hall improved to 7-0 while holding opponents under 68 points.
Butler played without senior guard Aaron Thompson, who has been out since Dec. 16 with a sprained knee. He was averaging 17.5 points and 5.0 rebounds before the injury.
The Bulldogs (2-5, 1-3 Big East) are 1-4 since Thompson went down. Freshman Chuck Harris added 11 points in the loss.
The Pirates used a 21-5 run to take a 34-25 halftime lead. Mamukelashvili had 13 points, five assists and four rebounds at the break, while Rhoden had 10 points and four boards.
Seton Hall was coming off an impressive 85-68 rout of Xavier Wednesday night at Cintas Center.
On Wednesday night (9 p.m., FS1), they will visit a very tough Creighton team, led by Big East Preseason Player of the Year Marcus Zegarowski. The Bluejays are averaging a league-best 83 points per game.
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Adam Zagoria is a freelance reporter who covers Seton Hall and NJ college basketball for NJ Advance Media.