The first two times Seton Hall played Notre Dame this season, the Pirates lost and Duane Jordan and Rimas Kaukenas were not factors.
In the game that meant the most, though, each scored 18 points to lead Seton Hall to a 79-69 victory Wednesday in the opening round of the Big East tournament.
"With our good defense came good offense. They were looking for me today and the shots were falling," said Jordan, who also had 13 rebounds. "This is my senior year and we needed to win this one because we didn't want fate to control the destiny of our NIT chances."
The reason the talk about future postseason play for the ninth-seeded Pirates (15-13) went directly to the NIT rather than the NCAA tournament was that their next opponent is top-seeded and third-ranked Connecticut in Thursday's quarterfinals.
Seton Hall, which had lost in the first round the past two years, had two decent outings against the Huskies this season, leading at halftime both times before losing.
"Everyone talks that we played them tough, but we lost to them twice," Seton Hall coach Tommy Amaker said. "They'll be better. This is the showcase for our league and they're the best in our league. It will be an unbelievable battle just to stay on the court with them."
Eight-seeded Notre Dame (14-16) has never won a Big East tournament game, dropping to 0-4 since joining the league. But this was the closest of the four losses.
"Seton Hall did a real good job of changing defenses and forcing turnovers and created a lot of problems for us," Notre Dame coach John MacLeod said. "The other two times we kept Kaukenas under wraps, and that's the biggest game Jordan has had against us."
Jordan has a total of eight ponts against Notre Dame in the regular season and Kaukenas had 16.
Seton Hall matched its biggest lead of the game with an 11-0 run that put it up 66-52 with 5:12 remaining. The last four points were scored by Kaukenas, and his driving basket with 5:39 left was the Pirates' final field goal of the game.
Notre Dame closed within 69-64 with 2:05 left on a 3-pointer by Paul Rainey, but Seton Hall went 10-for-10 from the foul line the rest of the way.
"We scored against their zone for the lead, but they fought back," Amaker said. "Our perimeter defense was pretty good and we forced them out further than they wanted."
Ty Shine had 17 points and six assists for Seton Hall.
Troy Murphy, the conference's rookie of the year and leading rebounder, had 28 points and 15 rebounds for the Fighting Irish.
"It's disappointing for the season to end today. We were hoping to make a run in the tournament and probably earn an NIT bid," said Murphy, who averaged 18.9 points and 9.7 rebounds. "I learned a lot this year and had a lot of fun, but it's still disappointing to lose."
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