NEW YORK — Farewell began with a basketball fiasco.
Airballs, bricks, sloppy turnovers, scrums on the floor.
The first game of this Big East finale was no masterpiece, that’s for sure. Then again, maybe it was fitting for a conference that’s always prided itself on rugged defense and physical play.
Fuquan Edwin scored 17 points, including the final six in regulation, and Seton Hall rallied past South Florida 46-42 in overtime Tuesday night in the unsightly opener of a last-of-its-kind tournament.
“In this league, it’s happened before. It’s not the first time,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said.
Gene Teague added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the 12th-seeded Pirates (15-17), who face No. 19 Syracuse in the second round Wednesday afternoon.
Even after playing an extra 5 minutes, the teams barely eclipsed the lowest-scoring game in Big East tournament history, Georgetown’s 46-41 first-round victory over Villanova in 2003.
But that hardly bothered the Pirates, who had lost 11 of 12.
“Oh, no, a win is a win,” Teague said. “I’m proud that we won, and I’m ready to play Syracuse.”
The Orange won 76-65 at Seton Hall on Feb. 16.
Zach LeDay had 13 points and 15 rebounds to lead No. 13 seed South Florida (12-19), which shot 24.2 percent and squandered an eight-point cushion down the stretch in a game between offensively challenged squads that both went 3-15 in conference play.
“It’s a tough way to finish our season. We gave the game away,” coach Stan Heath said. “We certainly had an opportunity to close it out in regulation. I think the wrong guys had the ball, and some of the wrong decisions were being made.”
It was an ugly start to a nostalgic week at Madison Square Garden, the site of so many memorable moments for the Big East tournament over the past three decades. The conference is splitting apart after this season, with seven basketball-centric Catholic schools — Seton Hall among them — breaking off to create their own league.
That group will retain the Big East name and is expected to play its conference tournament at MSG. But after all the recent defections and squabbling between schools, there is one thing everyone agrees on: this March Madness event will never be quite the same.
South Florida is one of three programs staying — albeit with a yet-to-be-determined new name — in a conference that will play major college football and welcome teams like Memphis, Central Florida, SMU and Houston.
Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame are headed to the ACC next season, with Louisville soon to follow. Rutgers heads to the Big Ten in 2014-15.
But first, there is another Big East title to be decided just a few blocks from Broadway.
South Florida, wearing bright green-and-yellow uniforms, went 16 for 66 from the field and 5 for 26 (19 percent) from 3-point range.
Still, the Bulls had their biggest lead at 37-29 after LeDay’s basket with 3:09 to go in the second half. After a Pirates timeout, Aaron Cosby made two free throws for Seton Hall with 2:50 remaining, and then Edwin took over.
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