GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Two years ago, John Leahy signed a letter of intent to play for Maryland, but probation for the Terrapins sent the 6-foot-7 forward to Seton Hall. Never were the Pirates more grateful for his services than yesterday.
Leahy's three-point shooting helped Seton Hall overcome an eight-point deficit with four minutes left, and put Terry Dehere in position to hit an 18-foot jumper with 1.8 seconds remaining in the Pirates' 76-74 win over La Salle before a sellout crowd at Greensboro Coliseum.
The win allowed Seton Hall, the fourth seed in the East, to advance to Saturday's second-round game against fifth seed Missouri, which played through three power outages that forced delays of more than an hour in its 89-78 win over West Virginia.
Leahy's performance helped set up the exciting finish in the opener, which La Salle controlled throughout after taking a nine-point lead in the first five minutes of the game. Leahy was scoreless in eight unproductive first-half minutes, but hit three three-pointers in the final five minutes. He hit four of six three-pointers and finished with 14 points.
"My role is to come off the bench and give the team a lift and I didn't do that," said Leahy. "After I made the first [three-pointer] I was very confident. I told the guys to give me the ball, and they did."
Seton Hall hit 10 of 24 three-pointers for the game, while La Salle made nine of 30. La Salle's 9.5 three-pointers per game led the nation (the Explorers end the season 1-7 in games when opponents hit more three-pointers).
The Explorers (20-11) hit just five of 16 three-pointers in the second half, with many of those misses coming on quick shots after they built a 70-62 lead with 4:12 left. La Salle only managed two free throws by Randy Woods and a layup by Jack Hurd after Woods'three-pointer gave them the eight-point lead.
"I don't question my [three-point] shots in the last minutes, and neither does Randy," said Hurd, who hit just two of 10 three-pointers and scored 13 points. "Our offense is designed to take three-point shots, and we can't change our offense just because it's the last few minutes."
Seton Hall was able to get back into the game by containing
Woods in the second half. The 6-foot guard put on a dazzling display in scoring 21 in the first half, but had just 12 in the second half on four of 11 shooting (he scored just two points in the first 10 minutes of the second half).
"Once [Woods] gets the ball you can almost chalk it up," said Dehere, one of many Seton Hall players to defend against Woods. "He's always working without the ball and he's so strong."