Seton Hall hopes return of fans can provide boost



The timing couldn’t be better.

Seton Hall enters Wednesday night badly in need of a victory, welcoming NCAA Tournament contender UConn to Prudential Center, and there will be fans in attendance for the first time in this pandemic-altered season.

The Pirates will get a Senior Day with their supporters, a potential jolt for this experienced, on-the-bubble team that is coming off consecutive losses at Georgetown and Butler.

“That means the world to me,” senior star Sandro Mamukelashvili said over Zoom. “I saw how MP [Myles Powell] left, how Angel [Delgado] left, how the older guys left — there were lots of fans in the building and it was a magical moment. Just having my family there really means the world, but adding fans and giving us the opportunity to have the same Senior Night as the guys who went before us, it’s amazing.”

While Seton Hall (13-10, 10-7) and Rutgers have been able to host parents for home games recently, this will be the first local college basketball game with fans this year after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that starting on March 1 that venues with indoor seating capacity of at least 5,000 can be filled up to 10 percent. Roughly 1,700 people will be in attendance. It is also an incredibly important game for the Pirates, a chance to put themselves in strong position to reach a fifth straight NCAA Tournament.

It won’t be easy. Since sophomore star James Bouknight returned from an elbow injury in mid-February, UConn has played exceptionally well, registering double-digit victories over Providence, Georgetown and Marquette, while losing at Villanova. Seton Hall hasn’t been at its best in quite some time, and is reeling after losing to Georgetown and Butler.

One positive is that there is hope point guard Bryce Aiken, one of Seton Hall’s best shooters, can return after missing the last four games with a knee injury. Another reason for optimism is Seton Hall will have fans in its corner.

“It’ll give us that [extra] juice, that extra adrenaline shot,” senior guard Shavar Reynolds said.


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