NEWARK - With 57 seconds left in regulation, West Virginia took a 10-point lead over Seton Hall on a three-point play by Da'Sean Butler that sent many Pirates fans streaming for the exits Saturday at Prudential Center.
It's hard to explain what happened next, except that Hall star Jeremy Hazell, who hit only 4 of 19 three-point attempts, made two when they counted the most in the final 17 seconds of regulation to tie the score at 77 and send it to overtime.
But Hazell, who really was the show for Seton Hall with 41 points, missed three more times from beyond the arc in OT as sixth-ranked West Virginia pulled away for a 90-84 win in the Big East opener to remain undefeated at 10-0.
Pirates coach Bobby Gonzalez said he doesn't believe in moral victories, but a team picked to finish 10th in the preseason poll of conference coaches showed him something.
"A team down 10 with  seconds to go doesn't come back unless it has a lot of ticker," Gonzalez said. "I do think we sent a message and showed that we're going to be for real this year and get better and better. We're going to be a heck of a team before it's over."
There were plenty of times when the Pirates (9-2) seemed out of it, only to come roaring back. West Virginia opened the game with a 15-3 run, but the Pirates had a matching run late in the half to get within two at intermission. Hazell scored seven in a 13-7 surge to pull within 66-63 in the second half. A 9-2 run gave West Virginia a 75-65 lead with 57 seconds left, but Hazell hit the two big threes at the end of a tying 12-2 run.
"We came in averaging 88 points a game, second in the nation in scoring," Gonzalez said. "When we get it going, we can score with anybody in the country. The unfortunate thing is we didn't shoot well today."
The Pirates shot 37.8 percent from the field, 20.0 percent from three-point range and what Gonzalez called a "disastrous" 48.5 percent from the line, missing 17 of 33 foul shots. By comparison, the Mountaineers' stars came up big.
Butler had 21 points, six rebounds and six assists. Devin Ebanks was brilliant with 22 points, 17 boards, seven assists and zero turnovers in 45 minutes. Freshman Kevin Jones had 19 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks. Those three totaled all 13 points in OT.
Hazell was spectacular, but you couldn't help but feel he should have shot more from inside the arc, where he was 10-for-14. "I can coach a kid like him," Gonzalez said. "Everybody else is saying, 'He's taking 19 threes, he's going nuts on the shot selection.' I'm saying, 'Look, if you hold him back too much, he's not going to make the ones you need him to make when you're trying to beat West Virginia.' You've got to give him a green light."
It was great until OT, when the light changed.