In the 2000 NCAA Tournament, a 5-foot-10 senior guard from Seton Hall — the type of player, short on height and long on experience, that has repeatedly been etched into March Madness lore throughout the years — made one of the biggest plays of the tournament, a shot that nearly joined the list of true March Madness buzzer-beaters, except there was just less than two ticks left on the clock. For good measure, he made a key defensive play to help secure the win, which was part one of two in a Sweet 16 run.
Just more than two decades later, that player, now a Division I head coach, would lead his school, one located in the same state as his alma mater, to one of the most improbable Sweet 16 runs in the history of the NCAA tournament.
This is the story of the first Sweet 16 run for Shaheen Holloway, the former Seton Hall player turned Saint Peter's head coach.
Holloway, who repeatedly talked about his Saint Peter's team's toughness and confidence during the 2022 NCAA Tournament, is no stranger to playing tough. During No. 10 seed Seton Hall's opening-round win over No. 7 seed Oregon in the 2000 NCAA Tournament, he came off a screen and sank a short jumper before landing on his right wrist and CBS cameras showed him icing his wrist during timeouts.
Holloway not only stayed in the game and hit the biggest shot of the game, but played a team-high 42 minutes, while scoring 27 points — 10 more than any other player in the game. He was perfect at the free throw line (2-for-2) and from behind the arc (3-for-3).
With Oregon leading 71-70 and just under eight seconds remaining in overtime, Holloway received the inbounds pass, dribbled nine times around several defenders while changing directions a couple times — weaving right, then left, then right again — and going the length of the court, before laying up a soft game-winner high off the glass. 72-71, Seton Hall.
Here's how color analyst Jim Spanarkel described the play on the broadcast after the final buzzer: "Shaheen Holloway knew the situation. He had eight seconds left in his senior year, in his career at Seton Hall. Took the basketball and watch what he did. He went down the floor, Oregon did not pick him up, penetrated, puts the ball off the glass, keeps his senior year alive."
The Ducks were left with 1.9 seconds and the hero Holloway wasn't done making plays. When Oregon's Darius Wright received the inbounds pass, he was only to take one dribble before being forced to pick up his dribble and attempt an awkward, running, off-balance 3-pointer from just across midcourt because Holloway had darted over to cut off Wright.
In the screenshot below, you can see Wright out of bounds in front of press row as Wright had no choice but to take a longer shot sooner than he planned. The shot fell well short. Game over.
By the way, how's this for two doses of symmetry. First, the CBS play-by-play broadcaster for Seton Hall's win over Oregon was none other than Ian Eagle, who's shown below during the broadcast and who called the second-round upset of Saint Peter's over Murray State in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Secondly, check out the midcourt logo in the screenshot above, that's that of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), because Seton Hall played its first two games at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, home to Canisius College. The MAAC is the conference of Saint Peter's, the school Holloway guided to the Sweet 16 in 2022.
"And that's it!" Eagle proclaimed, when Oregon's final heave fell short. "Seton Hall pulls it off and the Pirates are going to the second round. They beat Oregon, in overtime, 72-71."
In the second round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament against Temple, Holloway scooped up a shot that had been blocked by teammate Samuel Dalembert and he raced down the floor in a play not dissimilar from his game-winner against Oregon. His layup rattled in with 12:05 to play in the first half but Holloway appeared to roll his left ankle on a Temple defender's foot on his way to the basket and he crashed into the row of photographers behind the basket, leaving him writhing in pain.
"He has had a long career of getting beaten up and knocked down because he is relentless with driving the basketball to the basket," Spanarkel said.
As Holloway was helped off the court and into the locker room, Eagle said, "They are not playing this game today without Shaheen Holloway." He later returned courtside, but in a wheel chair and with his left ankle wrapped.
Even with Holloway unable to return, Seton Hall performed admirably and once again the game went to overtime and once again, the Pirates had to hold their collective breath as their opponent attempted a potential game-winning heave from just across midcourt. Temple's final shot was better than that of Oregon, but it clanked off the back of the rim.
67-65, Seton Hall, and for the first of (at least) two teams in Shaheen Holloway's playing or head coaching career, he went to the Sweet 16, both times with a school from New Jersey, with Ian Eagle on the call.
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