NEWARK, N.J. (AP) After putting itself back in the NCAA Tournament picture with wins over Creighton and Xavier, the key for Seton Hall is to stay there.
Angel Delgado had 25 points and 13 rebounds, Desi Rodriguez added 22 points and Seton Hall took a major step toward a second straight trip to the show with a 71-64 win over fading Xavier on Wednesday night.
''We can't lose any games,'' Delgado said after posting his 20th double-double in 21 games. ''That's my goal and the guys' goal, lose no games. We just have to go play hard, play like we played today. We played hard and we're confident. If we play like that every game, for sure you are going to win. We have to play happy and be ourselves.''
''That's our goal to get to the tournament again, and make a run,'' said Rodriguez, whose drive across the game broke a 43-all tie and ignited a 10-4 run that put the Pirates ahead for good. ''So just taking care of the games left, that's most important. Coach said this was a big win for us today, and we have to keep winning.''
Xavier had not lost four games in a row since the 2012-13 season, the only campaign in the last 11 that the Musketeers failed to make the NCAA Tournament.
''We have to get better,'' Xavier coach Chris Mack said. ''We can pinpoint why, but I am more worried about what we have to do to get better. It seems like it has been a long time since we won a game. Our job is not going to get any easier Sunday (Butler) but we have to do what we can and fight back and get in the win column.''
Coming into their three-game homestand, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard felt his team had to win two of the three games against Creighton, Villanova and Xavier. The Pirates did that, losing only to the Wildcats, the defending national champions.
''It was beyond big. It was a must-win,'' said guard Madison Jones. ''We knew it would be big for our season. We knew we had to go into this home stretch and get two out of three, and we did that.''
This game was close the whole way. Rodriguez broke a 43-all tie with 13:49 to play with his drive and Myles Powell stretched the lead to five points with a long 3-pointer.
After Quentin Goodin scored on a layup, Ismael Sanogo added a free throw for the Pirates to make it 49-45. Tyrique Jones scored on a dunk to get Xavier within 49-47 but Rodriguez and Madison Jones scored in the lane to push the advantage to 53-47.
Xavier twice got within two points, the last on two free throws by Bluiett with 7:26 to play.
However, Delgado converted a three-point play to ignite an 8-0 run that gave the Pirates breathing room the rest of the way.
Xavier: The Musketeers, who were in the poll for most of the season, need to get back on track quickly although they should be a tournament team.
Seton Hall: The Pirates should have enough on their resume to return to the tournament for the second straight year but they can't fall asleep down the stretch.
''Obviously it depends on how they finish up down the stretch, just like it will for us and every team in our league,'' Mack said of the NCAA Tournament. ''Everybody is fighting tooth and nail to get there.''
Xavier: Hosts Butler on Sunday. The Musketeers lost to the Bulldogs 83-78 on the road on Jan. 14
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